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Niagara Falls
Sunday, February 5, 2023
PHOTO GALLERY: Courageous NOTL penguins say Boxing Day dip is c-c-cold, but ‘lots of fun’
The over-30 group pose for a group photo before drying off. (Dave Van de Laar)
Two of this year's dippers frolic in the icy water. (Somer Slobodian)
Though it was cold, the penguin dippers had a lot of fun. (Dave Van de Laar)
A penguin dipper falls back into the Niagara River. (Somer Slobodian)
Spectators watch the Penguin Dip from the rocky shore of Balls Beach. (Somer Slobodian)
The river suffers no penguins as they head into the water. (Somer Slobodian)
Two of this year's dippers frolic in the icy water. (Somer Slobodian)
The over-30 dippers head to the shoreline for their date with dipping destiny. (Somer Slobodian)
A participant splashes icy cold water on his face. (Dave Van de Laar)
Martin Lindqvist and Krystle Bernier take the dip for the first time. (Somer Slobodian)
Chris Bjorgan has been doing the penguin dip for 40 years. (Somer Slobodian)
Krystle Bernier feels the cold from the Niagara River. (Somer Slobodian)
The cold didn't stop people from participating in the annual Penguin Dip. (Dave Van de Laar)
Only the brave went into the icy waters at Balls Beach for the Penguin Dip. (Dave Van de Laar)
Everyone had fun in the icy Niagara River for the Penguin Dip. (Dave Van de Laar)
The over-30 group pose for a group photo before drying off. (Dave Van de Laar)
Penguin Dip participants head to the shoreline. (Brian McAndrew)
Participants pose for a quick photo in the freezing water. (Brian McAndrew)
It was a cold day for a penguin dip. (Brian McAndrew)

It was a dip even the penguins would be proud of. 

After a last-minute location change back to Balls Beach from Queen’s Royal Beach, about 30 participants ventured into the frigid waters of the Niagara River for the annual Niagara-on-the-Lake Boxing Day Penguin Dip.

“It takes a lot of courage,” said Rachel Saylor, who has participated in the dip 10 times. 

“I think the best strategy is in and out and knowing that it’s done in like, 15 minutes,” she said. An official dip requires three plunges.

Saylor was part of the group of penguins in the over-30 category. 

“There’s something special about getting together with a big group of people and doing something crazy,” she said.

Before they had a chance to change their minds, about 16 people from the under-30 cohort jogged out of a trailer and down the snowy path – in nothing but bathing suits and goosebumps. 

Dozens of supporters were bundled up in warm winter clothing along the rocky beach, cheering on the braver souls as they made their first trip down to the near-freezing water. 

Several of the human penguins screamed as they stepped into the icy river. The air temperature was about -2C at the time and one observer estimated the water was about 4C.

Each dipper jumps in three times, but everyone gets to warm up in the trailer in between adventures.

Owen Demers came to his first Penguin Dip thinking he was only jumping in once. 

As he warmed up and dried off after his final dip, his hands were red and trembling.

He described the icy experience as refreshing and advises newbies to “just go out and have fun.” 

As light snow softly fell, Moe Bjorgan collected donations for Red Roof Retreat and his brother Chris Bjorgan, one of the event’s organizers, was getting ready for the dip. 

Every year the dip collects money for Red Roof Retreat, a respite service for parents of kids and young adults with special needs. 

Moe Bjorgan knows what it’s like to take the cool plunge. “It’s actually so cold it burns,” he said.

After doing the dip 15 times previously, Moe was happy that his son Owen is carrying on the tradition.

This was the 47th year of the dip.

“It was wonderful. It’s great. It’s always a good experience,” said Westen Macintosh, as water dripped into the snow at his feet.

Macintosh is from Niagara-on-the-Lake, but now lives in the United Kingdom. He’s done the dip five times. 

“Every year it gets easier,” he joked, adding, “No, it gets worse every year.” 

“But it’s lots of fun,” he said.

Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa and deputy mayor Erwin Wiens were on hand as spectators. Would they ever consider taking the cool dunk? A unanimous “no” was the answer.

Wiens joked he might consider it if Zalepa did it first.

“It’s like a hockey fight. When you’re watching them, they’re great,” Wiens said, happy to be cool but dry on the sidelines. 

With files from Evan Loree.

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