Okanagan Lake relatively warm for this year’s polar bear dip

People took the plunge from across the valley

It was practically a day at the beach for participants in Peachland’s annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear dip.

Swimmers had the advantage of unseasonably mild weather with the temperature outside being just below 0 C and Okanagan Lake at a comparatively balmy 5.4 C. This time last year, it was -10 C outside and the lake temperature was 2 C.

Regardless of relatively warm weather, plunging into the lake was still a daunting prospect, said many of those who gathered on Beach Avenue, at Swim Bay.

Dressed as a pirate, who was “ready to go down with the ship,” Peachlander Rob Fairbridge said he was taking the plunge for the first time, thanks to a persuasive friend who was also going to do the swim.

His plan of attack was to “run in, scream a little bit, and run back out.”

Many others said they wanted to start the new year fresh by washing off 2018.

For one pair of dippers, the event was the fulfilment of an idea born nearly 40 years ago.

Denise Nielson saw her first Okanagan Lake polar bear dip in 1981, and at that time she said “I am going to do that one day.”

In 1983 she gave birth to her son Brent, and put the idea on the shelf for awhile.

Tuesday she stood on the shores of Okanagan Lake with Brent’s “very supportive, warm” hand in hers as they readied themselves for the dip.


“I thought about it for many years, and now the stars lined up and we’re doing it together,” said Denise.

“I agreed to do it last Christmas,” said Brent. “A year goes by pretty quick and I was dreading it.”

Denise added “he was thinking ‘mom’s going to forget’, but I didn’t.”

While they had a whole year to think over actually doing the dip, they hadn’t gone over a strategy.

“We’re just going to give ‘er,” said Brent.

“Warm hands, warm heart,” said Denise.

“You’re going to have to get your hair wet,” said Brent.

Denise was fine with the idea and the two found their spot among the hundred or so others who were at the shore.

Within minutes the whole swim was over and Denise and Brent had nothing but good things to say about the experience.

“Everybody should do it at least once,” said Brent, adding that he might bring water shoes to the next one.

To report a typo, email:


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


Just Posted

Rockets’ Nolan Foote traded to New Jersey Devils

The Devils acquired Foote and a 2020 first-round pick from the Lightning in exchange for Blake Coleman

The Coldest Night of Year walk returns to Kelowna Feb. 22

The event raises money for charities serving hungry, homeless and hurting people in the community

Smalltown DJs to bring sounds of Shambhala and Bass Coast to Sapphire Nightclub

The Electronic Dance Music duo is known for their bass-heavy beats

Rockets lose 3-2 to Rebels in close game

The Rockets are back in action on Monday when they host the Calgary Hitmen at Prospera Place

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Most Read