The non-inflatable (ahem) Olympic-sized backyard wading pool

My almost-two-and-a-half-year-old hasn't been all that thrilled with swimming this summer. It breaks my swimming heart, though I really can't blame him – it hasn't been all that warm and the wading pools are so cold I barely last three minutes up to my ankles!

To bridge the gap between the months ago swimming lessons and the lake we're heading to shortly, we got a small, blow-up wading pool for the backyard, and I decided to set it up while he napped.

I thought we had gotten a small, maybe three foot wide pool, but it turns out we got the Olympic-sized backyard wading pool. It's over two metres wide and is the entire width of our yard. It's pretty much a small above ground pool.

And then I tried for a full 45 minutes to inflate this way too big pool, wearing my sleeping three-month-old. After a LOT of cursing and flipping this ginormous plastic pool over and over again, it turns out, it turns out it's not an inflatable pool after all. (I only learned this through Instagram. Thanks Kerry and Carolyn for the tip!)  You just unroll it – also not easy – and fill it with GALLONS of water.

I wasn't sure how it was going to go over, so I only filled it a few inches, but after some getting used to it, Jack was all over it. Kicking, splashing, making "coffee soup"...

And when my fella came home, he hopped in too.  Gin and tonics poolside? Positively delightful! (Though I am going to make a dollar store trip and get one that is significantly smaller...!)

And then I took the baby to the Toronto launch of Jessica Lee's swim memoir, Turning, and got to meet her and Lindsey Sutherland, another on-line swimming pal in person, and it was all sorts of wonderful!

ps: if you're looking for the perfect book to read beside a lake/pool/river/backyard wading pool this summer, I can't recommend Turning enough.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, July 12, 2017

On the swim-less days

Summer has finally arrived in Toronto. It has been gloriously sunny for days – perfect swimming weather – but I have a three-month-old and leaving her on the side of the pool in a car seat like my mom did with me back in the early 80s is probably not going to fly. So instead of swimming every day like I want to, I've decided to write about swimming every day that the outdoor pools are open in Toronto. I started on June 17th and will keep on until Labour Day.

Some days are long meandering tales of swimming and water and lakes and rivers, other days are just a few words. Some days I write about swimmable puddles, other days are about lifeguarding. It really is the next best thing to swimming...

June 18
I want my arms to be too tired to hold anything, my legs too heavy to carry the weight of me.

June 19
Four years ago today I sat on a beach made out of rock that clacked under foot, a dry, dull clack that competed with the carousel's song and the waves against the shore. I sat on the stones and wondered if this was the Atlantic, or the sea (I still don't know). I wondered if the tide was coming in or going out – I come from a world of lakes and find the idea of a shifting shoreline disorienting. I sat and debated going around and around on the carousel.

I let the sun sink into my shoulders and slipped sun-warmed stones into my pockets so I wouldn't forget the afternoon.

I wish I had gone swimming in Brighton.

June 26
I want my arms to be too tired to hold anything, my legs too heavy to carry the weight of me. I want to lose count and lost time and feel the calm flood my lungs, the calm that settled into the rhythm of my arms, my breath – 1-2-3-breath, a glimpse of the lane rope, 1-2-3-breath, a glimpse of the tiled edge.

July 1
Underneath the lifeguard chair, between the pool and the deck,
the smallest bit of green watches the sun shift turquoise and blinding.

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, July 6, 2017

Rainy day swimming

The only place I can swim today is a puddle in the driveway – a single stroke wide, with a gasoline rainbow separating the deep end from the shallow end.
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, June 29, 2017

The first Sunnyside swim of 2017!

After a less-than-successful first attempt at swimming outdoors last Saturday, followed by a feverish Sunday trapped in bed while the sun shone, I FINALLY made it to Sunnyside this weekend – my very favourite pool to swim in. I had butterflies in my stomach, I was so excited. It felt like Christmas morning, but with chlorine instead of presents under the tree.

The pool was fouling-free and sun-full and I got there right when it opened.

After a lifetime of taking FOREVER to get in the water, my swimming ladies encouraged me to jump in last summer, and so what better way to enter the 2017 summer swimming season than with the biggest jump I could muster.

("Mama jump in swimming pool!" my toddler is still saying. I beam every time!)

The fast lane was SO fast – with a U of T swimmer who was tearing it up, and an older man who apparently was on the national team in the 70s – that I had to marvel at their speed one lane over in the medium lane. I will never tire of watching fast, efficient swimmers. That and watching the across the floor jumping combinations in a dance class are two of my favourite things to witness.

The water didn't have the thick layer of sunscreen like it will by August, but was crisp and perfectly turquoise, warmer than the air. My mind drifted and rambled as it only can during a wonderful swim and when I was done, I made sure to float on my back in the centre of the deep end, letting the huge blue sky full my lungs.

And if that wasn't wonderful enough, I ran into a guard who recognized me from my very pregnant swimming days before I had my daughter a few months ago. He had been guarding the day before I gave birth and got a glimpse of my little girl in her stroller.

It's been thunderstorming ever since (grrrrr), but I have my fingers crossed for sunny swimming days ahead!

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Yesterday/ Today

yesterday's lake was quantum mechanics.
a whale-shaped rock.
a red guitar.
a too-shy bathing suit.
a new romance (not mine).


today's lake was a reminder.
it was not gentle.

  • Laura
  • Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Fouling: A sad swimming tale and a cocktail

I must've done something to piss off the swimming gods.

Granted, I got to talk about swimming in Toronto on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning, but after that the week went downhill. There was food poisoning, a lot of vomiting in the hospital bathroom, exhausting solo parenting and not a lot of sleep. But it was all going to be okay because the pools were opening on Saturday and I was going to swim outdoors at my beloved Sunnyside Pool.

I couldn't swim the minute the pool opened – kids, scheduling, etc., etc. – but I finally got my kids fed and down for simultaneous naps (!!), packed my bags, hopped on my bike and biked through High Park. I was so gloriously excited for the first outdoor dip of the season.

When I got to the waterfront trail, I saw an older man strutting along in a Speedo and sandals, a towel around his neck. I asked him how the water was.

“Wonderful,” he replied, “but the pool is closed.”

“Closed?” I asked, bewildered. It wasn’t supposed to close for another two hours.

“Closed,” he said motioning that someone had vomited in the pool. They would re-open in an hour, he promised.

At 3. The pool was supposed to re-open at 3, except my two-month-old would need to nurse at 3:30.

Not gonna lie, I sat on the to beach (grateful I packed a picnic blanket!) and I almost cried. It was a terribly self-pity moment – the week had been so long and so hard and this swim was the only thing keeping me together.

I stared at the lake that looked like an ocean and made a sad Instagram story and eavesdropped on a first date, and watched a couple do mesmerizing things with hula hoops.

I tried to read my book as the sky darkened and got two texts – one from my sister and one from my fella. They’d both heard thunder.

And thunder means lightning and pools have to close.

I called Sunnyside (at 2:56), but they were still opening at 3. Whew! I biked over as fast as I could. I was going to be the first one in.

Except when I got there, there was a lifeguard standing at the door. “Thunder,” she said over and over again to *very * disappointed would-be swimmers.

I couldn’t hold back. I actually sobbed on the beach. In the rain. It was so sad and pathetic it almost makes me laugh now (almost…I’m not quite over it).

I biked home in the torrential rain, thunder rumbling, lightning spiking. I was actually relieved it was an actual thunderstorm and not just a wayward grumble.

I got home soaked and freezing. My fella had a pile of towels at the ready and handed me a hot toddy.

Of course the sun came out later, and the pool reopened (after my kid-free window had closed, of course), so I decided the only thing to do was make a happy hour cocktail to commemorate this ridiculousness of the afternoon.

May I present, “The Fouling” – a dark and stormy (ginger beer, rum and lime) with a chocolate garnish:

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 19, 2017

A Swimming Holes We Have Known approved summer swimming pool checklist

The pools (well, some pools!) open this coming Saturday and I'll be chatting about swimming in Toronto on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on June 13th at 7:25am. I could not be more excited! 

Ten outdoor pools are opening on the 17th on evenings and weekends (including my beloved Sunnyside Pool!) and the rest of the pools open on June 24th (evenings and weekends) and then it's a swimming bonanza when summer schedules go into effect on Friday June 30th!

Here's a list of all the City pools and their opening dates (and links to each pool's page!)

In case it's been a while since you last swam outdoors, here's a Swimming Holes We Have Known approved summer swimming pool checklist:

Don't forget...
- your suit
- a quarter for a locker (and an extra in case the locker eats the first one/a fellow swimmer has forgotten one)
- flip flops
- waterproof sunscreen
- sunglasses
- goggles
- towel(s)
- underpants (Laura made this handy reminder)
- a book for on-deck reading (Note: no newspapers allowed!)
- extra hair elastics if you're of the long-haired persuasion
- a water bottle
- a small Ziploc baggie for your phone
- extra swim diapers if you're swimming with a toddler
- a plastic bag for post-swim wet suits/towels
- swim snacks for the post-swim hungries (Rhya's go-to is Doritos. I'm a fan of the swim biscuit)

Sunnyside Pool is full and ready to go!!

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 12, 2017

The generosity of water: Jessica J. Lee's swim memoir, Turning

In the weeks after my daughter was born, I wasn’t allowed to swim. I missed it desperately though and those eight swimless postpartum weeks felt like months. BUT, one Saturday, I was hauling children and car seats and emptied boxes of raisins out of the car and a woman showed up on my front lawn – a friend of swimmer/writer Jessica J. Lee, who had a book for me – Lee's swim memoir Turning: A Year in the Water, sent all the way from Berlin.

I e-met Lee months ago through Twitter (thanks Shawn!) and have been inspired by her swim-ventures ever since. I was fascinated and dumbstruck by her tweets about swimming in the coldest days of winter, packing a hammer and a toque (and I interviewed her here!)

"I'm at home in the water, and I'm not scared to be alone here," she writes.

In a single year, Lee decided to swim in 52 lakes around Berlin, in part to heal her broken heart, in part to reclaim the geography as her own. There is something so healing about submerging yourself in a different element – I can't count the number of times I have swam through deep grief, my goggles filling with tears I would have to empty in the shallow end. It is the closest thing to meditation as I have ever known and has saved me on too many occasions to count – broken hearts, lost loved ones, a failed dance career, debilitating injuries, postpartum chaos…

"There's a kind of offering in the generosity of water holding you afloat. In the way water holds feeling, how the body is most alive submerged and enveloped, there's the fullness of grace given freely,” Lee writes. Yes yes yes, I nodded while reading. Yes yes.

The rules for the project were: no swimming pools, no wetsuits. All the lakes had to be reachable by public transport, bike, or on foot. All had to be reasonable distances (i.e. day trips) from central Berlin.

Lee writes with depth and eloquence, weaving together her personal relationship to swimming and lakes, to the complications relationships of the geography of the lakes she swims in (swimming in lakes near former Nazi bunkers, and a lake that was once divided into East and West Germany by a line through its centre). It is a beautiful meditation on swimming and water and what it is to heal and find your strength once again

I am a fair-weather swimmer when it comes to outdoor swimming. I'm a summer swimmer, and even then it can take me forever to get in the water. I’ve never once even considered doing a polar bear dip, but Lee talks about the endorphin rush of swimming in the winter lakes, literally hammering her way through the ice, toque on, counting out her strokes, and I would find myself reading these winter passages faster, wanting to get the same rush vicariously through her winter swimming. I didn’t ever think that swimming in a frozen lake could be romanticized, but I caught myself dreaming of a trip to Germany next winter – toque, suit and hammer packed…

In reading Turning, I learned more about water than I have all my life – the physiology of lakes, the biology of lakes, how the temperature changes, how wind and depth and algae determine the quality of the water.

Until we three swimmers were swimming in the Gatineau River last summer, I hadn’t thought much about the different textures of water, but Rhya was fascinated by how silky the dark river water felt (turns out it comes from the many, many sunken and decomposing logs at the bottom of the river). And of course Lee explores the different textures of the water she swims in. “The water I grew up with was hard, cutting...the lake a whetted blade,” she writes of the Canadian lakes of her childhood. “The water in Berlin has a softness to it. Maybe it's the sands buffing the edges of the water like splinters from a beam. It slips over you like a blanket.”

“There's a safety in this feeling. In the lakes here, there's a feeling of enclosure and security that Canada can't replicate.”

(This is where it took all of my will power not to buy a plane ticket to Berlin…)

After swimming through heartbreak, three seasons in, Lee develops a friendship with another wild swimmer, Anne. Their connection is deep and generous in a way that swimming friendships are. I’m not exactly sure why, but swimming friendships are special, different somehow than other types of friendships. And as the two of them sought out the last few lakes in the 52-lake year, their friendship deepening and widening, the lakes: "became points of light in the landscape, generous, steady and incalculably beautiful.”

Jessica’s coming to Toronto this summer and we’re going to go swimming. I truly can’t wait.

You can buy the book here, or at your fav indie book shop!

Tuesday, July 11 from 6-8pm

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Countdown to the First Outdoor Swim of the Summer

This winter was cold, gray and loooonnnnnnng.

I sometimes plan a trip somewhere south to shake the February blues, but this year I was working on a big project – the launch of – and I couldn't get away from my design shackles.

So, I decided instead to pass the cold months with a countdown to the first outdoor swim of the summer -- arguably the greatest swim of the year, especially in Ontario. My countdown was a #tbt series on Instagram, revisiting of some of the best & worst swimming holes I have known in the past.

For those of you who missed them on Insta, here's the recap... and at the end... well let's just say Summer 2017 has BEGUN... with a SPLASH!!


1. March 23 #TBT -- Provence:

That time we all lived at Poor Peter's Chateau in Provence. (*this is Chateau de Massillon in Uchaux. Spectacular place. Was there doing a photoshoot with Rob Howard for Butterfield & Robinson. Chris T was an exceptional sport and dove into this pool about a million times for the camera. Poor, poor Chris. Luckily, CHAMPAGNE afterwards.)


2. March 28 #TBT -- Puglia:
This one had ancient olive trees and palm covered chairs to fall asleep in. Puglia, Italy. (*Can't recall the name of the hotel at the moment. But it was the first time I had burrata and I. WENT. BANANAS. (Photo: Rob Howard)


3. April 6 #TBT -- Tulum:

This was Tulum. I went on a retreat to this beautiful place called Amansala, for which they refurbished Pablo Escobar's former beach house. Magnificent place. (Relocated due to sad and terrifying mafia story two weeks after I left). Wish I was reading and jumping into those waves from that swinging bed today....


4. April 12 #TBT -- Santorini:

This swimming hole was a real-life fantasy. The infinity pool at the Perivolas Hotel on Santorini overlooks where they say the Lost Atlantis dwells. Arguably the most beautiful place in the world. I can hardly believe I came home.  


5. April 20 #TBT -- Baja:

This was Baja and you weren't really supposed to swim on this particular beach. There was a menacing Undertoad, as Garp would say. (Plus schools of stingrays and the occasional dolphin / whale). But we did swim here, just briefly enough to be reminded of the awesome power of Big Water. Big beach. Big sky. Big feels. I loved Baja.  


6. April 27 #TBT -- Marrakech:

This is Jnane Tamsna, in the Palmerie just outside of Marrakech, which I ended up at because Carmen and I had a impulsive late night bidding session on LuxuryLink a few years ago... oops! Gorgeous, elegant place, look it up! (Photo credit: Hip Hotels)

7. May 4 #TBT -- Aruba:

This was Aruba, where I went with my mom a couple of Februaries ago. I was extremely exhausted when I got there so I slept on a lounge chair everyday with this as my view and a few times a day I would slip in and swim back and forth beside that breakwall. It was quiet and so beautiful. UNTIL around 5pm when the tide went out and these little holes in the sand underwater would appear and all these toilet-papery ribbons filled the bay... took a moment to realize they were CREATURES of some kind (eeeek!!!) but we just took that as our signal that happy hour was upon us and we'd go for a cocktail and get ready for dinner. 


8. May 11 #TBT -- Costa Rica:

This was Costa Rica. I stayed in this nice teeny hotel owned by a Canadian couple with a good wine cellar, and you had to walk down (and then back UP!) this steep hill to get to the beach. I regret to inform you that I did not have a good time at this swimming hole... it wasn't its fault though -- it had a great beach shack with cold beer and fish sandwiches, and I read an excellent book there (The Shadow of the Wind). But my companion was really mean to me on that trip and you all know that I don't like meanies. So, I guess I need a Do Over, Costa Rica... and I have a plan... 


8. May 18 #TBT -- Tuscany:

My fave day of the week, the Swimming Hole Countdown! with a look back to Tuscany and the insane view from the infinity pool at winemaker Roberto Cipresso's agriturismo.


9. May 24 #TBT -- Lake of Bays:

The big question of the day is: will the Swimming Hole Countdown end this weekend??? Will the Paper Crown Queen end up IN THE LAKE IN MAY for the second year in a row?? Stay tuned... but in the meantime, THIS Swimming Hole I Have Known is the Lake of Bays which I have loved for many reasons... there is a very nice boat from which to jump off the back, and that same very nice boat often has margaritas hand-delivered to it while we read twin copies of the same book and I ask my friend Don all the questions I can think of.


10. And the countdown brings us to Georgian Bay, May 28, 2017:


Parka: 1. Bathing suit: 0. 

Wool socks with sandals: 1. Bathing suit: 0.


Found in cottage closet: wetsuits circa 1983. And our inner Charlie's Angels.  


WE ARE IN!!!!  

May 28, 2017. Bone Island, Georgian Bay. The water temperature was below 60° C.

Summer has officially begun. Get in!

  • Laura
  • Friday, June 2, 2017

Swimlit: "Lake Ontario" in Watermarks: Writing by Lido Lovers and Wild Swimmers

It is no secret that I LOVE swimming And writing about swimming combines two of my very favourite things in the entire world, so imagine my delight when swimmer and writer Tanya Shadrick put out a call for swim writing on Twitter!
Watermarks: Writing by Lido Lovers and Wild Swimmers is a collaboration between Pells Pool, the oldest outdoor freshwater public pool in the U.K. (we three swimmers must make a trip!), and Frogmore Press and is the most perfect swim-filled anthology. Divided up into types of bodies of water – oceans and seas, rivers, lakes, pools and lidos*, it is such a delight to read. And I'm not the only one who thinks that! The collection was in the Top 10 books on when it came out and is already in its second printing (!!)
My piece in the book is on lake swimming – and features my beloved Lake Ontario!
About the anthology:
Watermarks is a collection of new poetry, stories and non-fiction by lido lovers and wild swimmers: writers who find inspiration in or near outdoor pools, lakes, rivers and other wild waters.

Full of quick turns, graceful strokes and surprising dives into the depths, this is writing to make us catch our breath, laugh in delight or shiver a little.

Our call for new poetry, short fiction and life-writing celebrating the life aquatic was answered by swimmers at home and abroad. F Scott Fitzgerald wrote that ‘all good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath’ and all the writer-swimmers in the book had us hold ours a little too.

Lake Ontario. Skarðsvík. Isola Santa. Galway. Hong Kong. Trollhagen. In waters from around the world, we are immersed in birth and death, danger and rescue, new loves and last. Ness Cove. Spitchwick. Thurlestone. Sharrah. Swimmers closer to home take us places few know and less dare:freezing mountain pools, rivers in full spate where buoyancy is lost suddenly in froth and bubbles.

With work by more than fifty fine writers, the collection includes an extract from Alexandra Heminsley’s new memoir Leap In and work by Lynne Roper, the visionary West Country wild swimmer and former press officer for OSS who died in August 2016.

*Confession: I've only just, in the last year, learned what lido means!

ps: you can buy a copy here (they ship to Canada!)
  • Lindsay
  • Monday, May 29, 2017

Cherry pickers and zoom booms

A while back, Kerry Clare asked in the comments how the lightbulbs in the flood-like lights towering above indoor pools are changed, and ever since I haven't been able to stop wondering (Yes, breastfeeding at 4am is a perfect time to obsess over those damn light bulbs, thanks for asking!)

So I finally asked a lifeguard! And he knew! And then I followed up with my all-knowing pool/swimming source, Coach Dave...

Cherry pickers, scissor lifts and/or "zoom booms" (telescopic forklift-y things).

They bring them in from outside and drive them on the deck (how this happens, I'm not sure, but apparently much of this equipment is max. 6 feet wide, so maybe they get in through double doors?)

AND, they have to close the pool, and sometimes even drain it, for fear of falling/broken glass!

Tada! Mystery solved!
  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Swimming + pregnancy + bed rest lite

Even though I love swimming, when people talk about the joys of swimming while pregnant, I always wonder if these women swam-swam before they were pregnant or if they're talking about bobbing in the slow lane. I mean, the weightless thing is great, and though it is still my favourite thing to do pregnant or not, for me swimming pregnant is definitely more challenging.

Before I was even showing, my abs stopped working, muscles I never really considered while swimming. But just weeks in, I kept crashing into the lane ropes and had to really work to swim in a straight line.

Then of course there was the ever tightening swimsuit situation. I kept my suit from my last pregnancy (that was already on its last legs) but had made the mistake of leaving it in the sunroom over the winter so the elastic in the straps had gone brittle. (The trick was wearing a bikini top underneath!) I probably should've bitten the bullet early on and bought a maternity suit, but I couldn't justify spending money on something I'd wear for such a limited time (and all the maternity suits seem to be more for lounging then for a swim-swimming anyway!) My swimming ladies banded together and got me a new suit for a baby shower gift (um, BEST!) and I am so thrilled to retire that poor old suit once and for all!

I should also add that I was nauseous for seven months and though getting to the pool wasn't easy, swimming was the only time that I didn't feel hungover and carsick all at once. An hour of respite = heaven.

After that horrible seven months wrapped up, this pregnancy kept dishing out surprises. With a hernia and crazy loose joints that kept me on bed rest lite, swimming (and biking strangely enough!) were the only things I could do that weren't horizontal. Swimming was my salvation and I'm truly not sure how I could've made it through without it.

It was a strange and bizarre thing to swim with intense Braxton Hicks contractions or having to stop and shove my baby's foot in from under my ribs in the deep end, but it was so liberating and so glorious to be able to move, and feel my muscles tire. 

Of course my suit got tighter and tighter, literally splitting at the seams to accommodate my growing belly. I'd get raised eyebrows every time I got in the fast lane, and I can't tell you how rewarding it was to still be able to keep up...ish.

I have never been a stand around chatting in the shallow end swimmer (I figure if I'm already at the pool I need to maximize my time swimming!). But I became a stander around in the shallow end, waiting for Braxton Hicks contractions to let up, or waiting for the baby to settle, making small talk the other standarounders. And I met some lovely folks - the elderly gentleman who had had a stroke who had been told by the lifeguards he didn't belong in the fast lane until he kicked all of our asses, giving me a conspiratorial wink that made my week; and another pregnant woman who was due in August; and a woman with spiky red hair who told me that I might not believe that swimming was the highlight of her day. I told her I did believe it because it was also mine.

I swam the day before I had my little girl - chuckling at the wide-eyed belly stare I got from every patron and lifeguard - and am now counting down the days till I can be back in the water. Countdown: 29 days!
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The long countdown to summer swimming

What's a swimmer to do when the snow flies and the winds whip below zero? (Well, if I was Jessica J. Lee, I'd bring a hammer to the lake and swim anyway, and if I was Rhya, I'd run straight into the water, but I am decidedly not either of them. I am a cold water wimp!) Winters are long in Canada for us outdoor swimming lovers.

Last Saturday was cold, and the morning started *very* early around here, but the sun was shining, so we headed east to the beach and the lake and to check out this year's Winter Warming Stations. The sand was sprinkled with snow, but the sun shone off Lake Ontario in brilliant shards. It was so beautiful.

My favourite installation was Collective Memory – bottles stacked on top of each other, with pens and paper for participants to add their own stories to the wall. (Letter writing?! Anonymous collective participation? Be still my beating heart!)

I also loved buoybuoybuoy – so many blues, the lake's, the sky's, reflected in the oval mirrors. 

How I love standing on the beach where the lake looks like an ocean...the countdown to summer swimming is ON!

ps: Check out last year's winter warming station adventure!
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, March 9, 2017

Polar Bear Dip - Into the Abyss

On January 1st at 12pm, under the icy rays of a winter sun, I dove into Lake Ontario and a new year.
  • It was 3 degrees Celsius (that’s 37.4 Fahrenheit)
  • It was cold.
  • It was blue.
  • And it kick-started my spirit. 

Looking out at the lake that morning, its surface glimmering, as though it was somehow floating millions of tiny diamonds towards our shivering skins, I felt giddy and had a nervous smile that could not be calmed.

Some how water looks richer in the winter, before the ice and snow capture it for their own.

So why the dip? Why jump into ice cold water on the morning of New Year’s Day, when I could have just stayed home bundled up and enjoying some family time:

1. The Polar Bear Dip is for a good cause, the money raised for this event goes towards Habitat for Humanity.

2. After an incredible year of swimming in 2016 —momentous swimming, full of adventures and beautiful swim holes —I wanted to continue that trend into 2017. I wanted to start the year in water, and not just a pool, a big body of water. I wanted to start my year by jumping into something grand. The intention was to run, leap or just flop into the abyss… and see what happens, with a smile and a shout!

3. Maybe there is a tiny part of me that just likes a good old fashioned adrenaline rush.

The Toronto Polar Bear dip takes place once a year at Sunnyside Beach. Swimmers or Dippers, I suppose, begin to gather on the beach around 11am to stake out their spots, by laying out blankets with all their extra warm gear at the ready. The actual dip happens an hour later at noon.
Me, and the my team of supporters (my husband Kyle, daughter Nomi and sister Kaurel and her little one, Lila) showed up early. I registered and got my super cool Polar Bear toque. Then we waited in the crowd of over 600 dippers for noon to arrive. There was classic rock, people in hilarious costumes (ahem, a gang of bearded men in pink tutus and g-strings… EPIC), and lots of puffy winter coats covering up swim suits of all sorts.

At noon, they gathered us together on a section of the beach that had been cornered off with some tape. I was standing beside a father daughter duo who had done the dip the previous year. They told me that the year before it had been freezing rain and was so miserable out and that we were very lucky to have such a great day this year. Sun and relatively little wind. They were also discussing their “entry strategies”, would they run, would they walk, would they walk half way and then just throw themselves in? It was all up for debate.

Then the countdown started.

And then I was running with a crowd of many towards the shimmering water! My entry was a run, and a flop. I’d like to think it was a dive, but it was flop. I went right under, it was sharp and invigorating. It woke me up. The adrenaline froze in my veins. And then just like that, I was running out of the water and towards my warm clothes on the beach.

I was probably in the water for maybe a 1 minute total. But it was awesome. I loved the freeze, I loved the crowd and the excitement. And I loved that the start of 2017 was spent in a beautiful body of water! Huzzah!

Now someone get me to a sauna!

So here are my takeaways…
1. Arriving at 11am, though I had a very quick registration process and snagged some prime real estate on the beach for my stuff, was kind of not so great… because I had an hour to wait in the cold. It would have been fine to come a little later and stay a little warmer.

2. Wear lots of warm loose clothing and make sure to bring some kind of large moo-moo style outfit to change under after.
3. Swim shoes are a really good idea!
4. On that note, don’t make the mistake I made and wear socks in your swim shoes. You have to wear swim shoes because the bottom of the lake is mostly stone, so it’s nicer on your feet. I thought I would keep my socks on, because it was just so cold. BIG MISTAKE! When I got out of the water, the cold socks just retained the chill and my feet were like Popsicles. Just take them off. Trust me. Go in with you suit and shoes ONLY! I should note that I also jumped in with a toque, that was okay because I could take it off right away.

5. Have a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee ready to go.

6. Cheering squads are pretty nice to have!

7. However you decide to get in… go all the way… dunk that head and wake up! It’s worth it.

  • Rhya
  • Friday, February 3, 2017

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