Nick Porter got a big hug of support from his wife, Patricia, before running into Lake Erie on New Year’s Day.
He got an even bigger hug when he ran out of the lake and into her arms.
“Man, that’s cold,” Porter, 38, of Delhi, said as his wife wrapped a large tiger blanket around him. “But, yeah, it was worth it.”
Porter was one of a couple of hundred people – men, women, young and old – to gather on the Port Dover beach for the traditional Polar Bear Dip to kick off the new year. It was his first time.
Although the temperature hovered around -2 C and the sun came out just as everyone was preparing to run into the water, a strong wind swept across the shore making conditions feel a lot colder.
Porter called foul on the wind.
“Hey, it wasn’t that windy when we left Delhi this morning,” he said with a chuckle.
But the wind wasn’t about to keep him from the water.
“This is something I vowed to do a long time ago and figured this is the year,” Porter said. “After all, it’s 2020.”
Rev. Dale Renout, of Brantford, is a Polar Bear Dip veteran. He has participated in the event for 12 years now and has no plans to stop.
“I don’t think I’ll be getting my head wet anymore, though,” said Renout, who is pastor of Rawdon Street Baptist Church in Brantford. “I’m getting too old for that.”
Renout well remembers his first time participating in the event. It was the year he turned 50.
“There was a lot of ice,” he said. “And I remember thinking it looked more like a seal hunt than a polar bear swim because a lot of people got cuts from the ice.”
His best experience over the years has been from conditions like those for the Jan. 1 dip.
Although, it was cold and there was a strong wind, there was no ice and participants could run in and out of the water unhindered.
In 2018, a hole had to be cut in the ice for people to slip in and out of the water. That meant participants and spectators had to walk across bumpy ice to get to the hole.
Following the swim, participants and their supporters were invited to the museum for the Captain’s New Year’s Day levee and Old Tyme Fiddle party.