Lakeside Polar Bear swimmers undeterred by snow

Dozens of Nelsonites enthusiastically charged into Kootenay Lake for the 2016 Polar Bear Swim at Lakeside Park this morning.

Celeste Moola clutched her father Shiraz for warmth while hundreds of Nelsonites braved the frigid temperatures of Kootenay Lake during the 2016 Polar Bear swim this morning.

Celeste Moola clutched her father Shiraz for warmth while hundreds of Nelsonites braved the frigid temperatures of Kootenay Lake during the 2016 Polar Bear swim this morning.

People have a variety of reasons for participating in the annual Polar Bear Swim at Lakeside Park, but not all of them make sense.

“I think it’s insane, actually,” said Colleen Driscoll, who was dressed as Kootenay Lake Hospital’s New Years baby. Joined by the Mountain Spirit Team, she was participating to honour their departed friend Hazel Miller.

“She meant everything to us. She was our spirit, we loved her to pieces and we miss her so much. She died in September in her sleep.”

Miller, who lived in Nelson and worked in Salmo, was there both in spirit and in photographic form—Driscoll shared a printed out image of the pair from a past Polar Bear Swim. She handed it to her husband councillor Robin Cherbo before joining the crowd in running down the snowy beach and crashing into the water.

Elsewhere in the mob was Iris Emery, who ran into the water with her mother’s friend Marjie Hills. While warming up afterwards she described the experience of hitting the water: “really, really, really cold and tingly.”

“I just think it’s fun to do and all my friends do it, so I thought why not try?” she said.

And some families took the plunge together.

“We made it a family affair,” said Shiraz Moola, a Nelson doctor. “I brought my daughter Celeste in and she managed to suck up all my heat, but that was a super exhilarating experience. The water felt warmer than outside with the cold wind blowing.”

Moola, who was also joined by his son Rohan, acknowledged the annual polar dip is somewhat ill-advised, and not for everyone.

“It’s clearly nutty but here we are surrounded by a great bunch of Nelson crazies.”

Nearby, Rohan was hurriedly getting redressed while his teeth chattered audibly and frost dangled from the tips of his hair. When asked if this makes him feel prepared for 2016, he grinned.

“If I can do this, I can do anything.”