North Shore residents asked to Penguin Plunge into 2021 at home

·3 min read

The annual Deep Cove Penguin Plunge is not going ahead in its usual form, but that doesn’t mean North Shore residents can’t have a refreshing start to the new year.

Due to provincial health order restrictions in place to prevent coronavirus transmission, the organizers of the New Year’s Day event are instead promoting “Penguin Plunge at Home” in 2021 and asking participants to share their fun virtually.

Erian Baxter, co-owner of Deep Cove Kayak and Coast Outdoors, said while it was sad the community couldn’t gather like it usually would for the almost 40-year long-running event, families and household bubbles could keep the tradition alive safely at home.

“It’s always been a really nice ritual to start the new year fresh,” she said. “Dipping in and out of the water is kind of a symbolism of that.

“We’re trying to create a virtual community where people can take part and then share their photos and videos with #PenguinPlungeAtHome2021.”

She encouraged participants to take a dip in a bathtub at 7°C, have a splash in a kiddie pool (kudos if you add ice), or be sprayed by the backyard hose.

“We’re still trying to keep the same feel,” said Baxter. “It’s just not all together.”

A post shared by Deep Cove Kayak Centre (@deepcovekayak)

The Penguin Plunge was started by Baxter’s stepfather, Merv Ovesen, and a few friends as an alternative to Vancouver’s Polar Bear Swim back in 1983. The original plunge was held on the beach in front of Cove Canoe Rentals, now known as Deep Cove Kayak, which was owned by Baxter’s mother, Ingrid.

“They started it in front of the kayak shop with four guys and three dogs, and it was specifically at 2 p.m., and it was specifically a plunge, not a swim – jump in and out,” said Baxter.

The event grew each year, with dozens of plungers and hundreds of spectators, and in 1986 the celebrations were moved to Panorama Park. As the years went on, more organizations became involved, including the District of North Vancouver, North Vancouver Recreation Commission, the Deep Cove Yacht Club, and the Mount Seymour Lions Club. For a long time, the family-friendly event was organized by the Lions club, which helped to increase the event's popularity.

Baxter said Deep Cove Kayak and Coast Outdoors were handed back the reins about 12 years ago when the Lions club no longer had the volunteer force to facilitate a winter event at that scale.

For every participant who posts a photo in 2021, Deep Cove Kayak will donate a dollar, up to $1,500, to Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue's Station 2.

Participants can also email photos to the centre to be featured on social media and to register for a commemorative button, which they can later pick up at the retail store Coast Outdoors after Jan. 6.

Don’t forget to #PenguinPlungeAtHome2021 with all your photos and videos on social media.

Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News