By Steve Hubrecht

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If like you to genuinely chill out in the winter, by jumping through a hole in the ice into the gelid waters of Kinsmen Bay, and want to be “freezin’ for a reason” then grab your swimming trunks this weekend.

The briskest bath of the year is back, with the Recreation Adapted (RAD) Society’s seventh annual Polar Plunge set to take place on Saturday, February 18.

The Polar Plunge is one of RAD’s oldest fundraisers in the Columbia Valley. It started back in 2016, after RAD Society founder, Tanelle Bolt, and Polar Plunge co-organizer, Ryan Karl, brainstormed various winter fundraising options to help the society raise money to purchase adaptive recreation equipment.

“We wanted to help increase awareness about RAD, in addition to fundraising,” Bolt told the Pioneer. “We thought about what would be a good way to do that in the winter, and we realized that the Columbia Valley did not have a formal community polar plunge event, so we jumped on it.”

The event has become synonymous with the Family Day long weekend. For the first few years it was held on a different weekend, but eventually organizers decided it made sense to have it on the long weekend. Each year the dip seems to attract more and more participants and spectators, to the point that it is now one of the biggest events on the Columbia Valley calendar.

“It’s ever-growing, and it’s a lot of fun,” said Bolt. “And it still serves several purposes: it promotes accessibility in the outdoors; it’s a fundraiser for the society; and it’s a drawing card event for the Columbia Valley outside of the busy summer tourist season.”

The first year, the Polar Plunge saw 60 swimmers jump in the lake. Last year there were 200 ice bathers, and more than 600 people total who came down to observe and take part in all the other activities going on at the plunge.

“It is is not just for swimmers. If you don’t want to go in the water, no problem — come watch, stay warm and be part of the fun. It’s a big party. There’s live music, hot dog roasting, snacks, swag, and other stuff going on. It’s a great community event,” outlined Bolt. “Taynton Bay Distillery will be there too, out on the lake. You even can skate right up to the bar.”

This year Bolt will have four sledges at the plunge, so that people can trying playing sledge hockey (also known as para hockey).

Last year the RAD Society was able to raise $10,000 through the Polar Plunge. It was the first in-person plunge event following the COVID-19 pandemic. The year prior, in 2021, the plunge took place only virtually (with people ice dipping alone and then posting the results online) due to pandemic restrictions, but still managed to raise $10,000.

Bolt and Karl are hoping to hit five figures in fundraising once again this year.

The money raised will be used to add to the impressive array of adaptive outdoor sports equipment RAD has acquired over the past few years, including a para golfer, a mountain trike, an adaptive cross country ski sledge and a hand cycle. Many of these pieces of equipment are the only one of their type available to publicly rent, anywhere in the world.

The RAD Society is also currently looking at renovating a 40-foot shipping container and turning it into an accessible, adaptive rental shop — to be called the Gear Box — that would house all this gear and more. 

The Polar Plunge will be at Kinsmen Beach, on Saturday Feb. 18 from noon to 4 p.m. Those who can’t make it are welcome to tune in digitally, as the event will be live streamed. Registration is $20. 

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