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Monday, February 26, 2024
Penguin Dip swimmers celebrate 40 years of embracing the chill
Penguins and friends take a frigid dip in the Niagara River on Boxing Day. It’s an annual tradition that raised $10,000 for Red Roof Retreat this year. DAVE VAN DE LAAR

It started as a way for a few friends to have something to do on Boxing Day, now more than 50 people dip their toes to their heads into cold Lake Ontario annually.

The annual Penguin Dip takes place every year on Dec. 26 and features three separate dips into the icy Lake Ontario, which includes dipping your head under.

This past December was no exception to the annual tradition: swimmers came out on Boxing Day to the shores of Balls Beach for the Penguin Dip, including NOTLer Pat Quinn.

“Originally it was a very small group down at a local house right on the water,” Quinn said. “I grew up with the family and it was something that they started on Easter and then moved to Boxing Day – I was just trying to weasel my way into a part.”

He has participated in every Penguin Dip since 1980, that is until this year. 

“I’ve done it for 42 years, I think I’ve served the Emperor Penguin enough years,” he said. 

Quinn is turning 67 this year and decided that it was time to stop hopping in the freezing lake, but still came out to assist other swimmers in and out of the water. 

“It was boring (not swimming),” Quinn joked. “But there were a good number of people coming out.”

He said because of the warmer holiday weather a total of 61 people joined in on the dip.

“People said ‘Oh you had an easy year for a swim,’ and to those people, I say ‘Talk to me when you come out of the water,’’ Quinn said.

The Penguin Dip has a handful of veteran swimmers aside from Quinn, including founding member Chris Bjorgan, who has been dipping just as long.

“I’ve been saying I can’t quit until my grandkids start, so I’ve got at least another six years left,” Bjorgan said. 

Bjorgan’s brother Lorne started up the dip all those years ago and now money raised goes toward Red Roof Retreat, founded by sister-in-law and brother, Steffanie and Moe Bjorgan. 

“It started out as fun and just kept going and growing,” Bjorgan said. 

This year’s dip raised $10,000 in support of Red Roof. 

“It was a good year, I really enjoyed seeing that many people out,” Bjorgan said.

Those interested in taking the plunge can look forward to next year’s dip, when the group plans to meet again. 

juliasacco@niagaranow.com

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