Breathtaking scenery for polar bear swim on Kawkawa Lake

January fun on Kawkawa Lake started with the polar bear swim on Kawkawa Lake.




Where people swam on Sunday, they skated on Thursday.

The big freeze was on its way on New Year’s Eve but Hope’s polar bear swim organizer, Brian McKinney thought the swim would still be okay.

“When I went there the night before, there was a light slush,” said McKinney last Monday. “I even threw snowballs through it. Last year, there had only been a light skim of ice at the dock.”

Things changed by Sunday, Jan. 1, morning and what still looked like slush had turned solid. McKinney led the countdown on his megaphone and veteran polar bear swimmer Miranda Cowan led the charge into the lake.

“There was a kind of a path into the water but I knew we couldn’t all go to the same spot,” she said. She headed a bit to the right, where it still “looked like slush.”

Cowan’s first few steps told her different.

“It was a couple of inches thick and I didn’t realize I had cut my legs until we got back up to the car. I thought they were just hurting because of the cold.”

Not knowing about the numerous small cuts, Cowan took a belly-flop plunge onto the ice — cracked through — and began an almost-immediate retreat to the beach, followed by her husband Jacob.

“I hit the water and I couldn’t move my arms, so I ran back out,” said Miranda, who figured this was their sixth or seventh New Year’s plunge at the lake.

“Lesson learned for next time: bring a hockey stick to break the ice ahead of me.”

Video evidence shows that McKinney was standing on the boat dock, wearing pants and a warm jacket, when he compelled the others to jump into unknown conditions.

While they were writhing in agony, trying to reconnect with their numbed extremities, he could have announced, “Sorry… I’ve gotta go. My, uh… dog got loose!”

But he didn’t have a dog — and he didn’t have a hope of escaping his frigid fate.

Good sport — and — showman that he is, McKinney had even prepped his swimming hole by shoveling extra snow into it. For extra theatre, he brought a stepladder, held steady by Kevin Plain, dressed as a soggy Superman.

“There’s no more of a picturesque place for a polar bear swim than Kawkawa Lake,” McKinney enthused on Monday. “It’s breathtaking!”

After the crowd of about 50 swimmers and onlookers did the countdown, McKinney leapt from the fourth level of his tower, plunging perhaps two metres under the fractured ice, then calmly strode back to shore, admitting it was, “A little chilly.”

McKinney wasn’t surprised that people didn’t want to hang around to chitchat, due to the extreme conditions.

“Some people said it would be kind of neat if we could build a bonfire and have someone vending hot chocolate,” said McKinney, who anticipates the event “will be bigger and better next year.”

Just Posted

Jacqueline Pearce and Jean-Pierre Antonio received the BC Historical Federation Best Article Award on Saturday for their story about translating haiku written in the Tashme internment camp.
Article chronicling haiku in Japanese internment camp near Hope wins award

Tashme Haiku Club’s work was preserved and recently translated, authors write

Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema, a member of the Canadian national women’s soccer squad.
Another scoreless draw for Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canadian national women’s soccer squad

Canada played Brazil to a 0-0 tie days after doing the same in a friendly against the Czech Republic

FVRD surveyed public opinion on cannabis production and processing in the electoral areas. Odour and distance from residential areas were the top concerns. (Black Press file)
Cannabis production and processing rules being drafted by Fraser Valley Regional District

Data from public opinion survey will be used to guide cannabis-related land use

Robert Nelson, 35, died after being stabbed at a homeless camp in Abbotsford on April 7 of this year.
Mom pleads for information about son’s killing at Abbotsford homeless camp

Robert Nelson, 35, described as ‘man who stood for justice, honour, respect’

Police arrest the suspect in an attempted armed bank robbery on June 2 at the Scotiabank at Gladwin Road and South Fraser Way in Abbotsford. (Photo by Garry Amyot)
Abbotsford bank robbery suspect who was stopped by customers faces more charges

Neil Simpson now faces total of eight charges, up from the initial two

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Most Read