University of Victoria students Rhyanna Bunniss

Ocean swim fundraiser grows

Mustard Seed funraiser and ocean swim Sunday 1 p.m. at Gyro Park in Saanich

Under the low winter sun at Gyro Park beach, the ocean radiates a definite chill. Yet, Rhyanna Bunniss and Alexander MacDougall storm the water with abandon, diving in for a short swim.

The two 20-year-old University of Victoria students emerge from Cadboro Bay laughing, ignoring the full-body shock as veteran swimmers in Victoria’s notoriously crisp ocean.

On a stormy day in December, Bunniss and MacDougall were part of the second Victory Ocean Swim, which saw about 30 hearty souls brave the water to raise food and money for the Mustard Seed.

The trick, Bunniss says, is not hesitating halfway into the water. “It was all or nothing. It was icy – an icy shock to the system,” she says, referring to the Dec. 9 swim.

She once did a winter swim off the coast of Cornwall in her native England, but Victoria is a different level of suffering. “I did an ocean swim in the snow, but it doesn’t compare to here. This is freezing.”

“I’m originally from Yellowknife so I’m used to the cold already. But it’s still shocking and a good experience,” MacDougall adds. “I don’t think I’d muster up the courage to do this on my own.”

The Victory event aims to support the Mustard Seed, but also to encourage more people to enjoy the ocean off Victoria. Organizer Jasmin Gerwien says for her, the cold water is the only consistent remedy for chronic neck and back pain.

“When I swim in the ocean, that’s when it goes away. I come out pain free and rejuvenated,” says Gerwien. “When it’s rainy and cold, I force myself to go swimming, then I am able to do some work.

“I’m not sure what I would do if I hadn’t discovered it. The health benefit is amazing. For me it works as an antidepressant.”

Gerwien organized her first fundraiser ocean swim on Nov. 11 in memory of her mother, which drew 11 swimmers. The December event nearly tripled the participation, thanks to a contingent of UVic students who had been doing daily polar bear dips in Cadboro Bay.

“It was mostly running in and out,” MacDougall said. “By the end we were doing some swimming.

“It think (the event) is a great idea. I’d never heard of (ocean swimming) here before. It’s awesome.”

For Sunday’s swim, Gerwien has been lobbying Saanich and Oak Bay police and firefighters, among other friends and colleagues. The response from business and emergency responders has been gratifying – nobody says no to donating or participating somehow, Gerwien says.

“I’ve converted a lot of people to the cause,” she says.

“Everyone who goes in tells me they feel amazing and invigorated. Seeing people united for a good cause is rewarding.”

Oak Bay police Const. Julie Chanin plans to bring her five-year-old son to support the cause, and to show him that people do swim in Victoria’s ocean.

“I did a polar bear swim 10 years ago, nothing recently,” Chanin says. “It difficult to say if we’re going to show up and support the event, or be a swimmer. It’s a good community event though – good, clean cold fun.”

The Victory Ocean Swim in support of the Mustard Seed is Feb. 17, at Gyro Park, with the swim starting 1 p.m. sharp. People are asked to bring non-perishable food items or cash for the Mustard Seed.

See victoryoceanswim.com for more information.

editor@saanichnews.com

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Family restaurant to hold Saturday fundraiser for Beirut blast

Wrap and Roll will donate all sales to victims of blast

Ride-hailing app KABU launches in Victoria

Customers required to wear masks at all times in vehicles

PHOTOS: VicPD hoping to reunite stolen goods with owners after seizing items during traffic stop

Items recovered after officers stopped a vehicle driven by known property offender

UPDATED: Three injured in Douglas Street crash involving impaired driver

Driver failed sobriety test, passenger arrested for possession of a controlled substance

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should it be mandatory to wear masks when out in public?

B.C. is witnessing an alarming rise in the number of cases of… Continue reading

RCMP looking for missing teen in Comox Valley

Jenessa Shacter was last seen going for a walk in downtown Courtenay

B.C. wildfire crews have battled 111 blazes in the last seven days

Twenty-nine fires remain active, as of Friday (Aug 7)

‘We don’t make the rules’: Okanagan pub owner says staff harassed over pandemic precautions

‘If you have six people plus a baby, guess what? That’s seven’ - West Kelowna Kelly O’Bryan’s owner

T-Rex earns big bids at B.C. dino auction

Over 500 dino-themed lots sold to buyers from across North America

Remembering Brent Carver: A legend of Broadway who kept his B.C. roots strong

Over the years, the Cranbrook thespian earned his place as one of Canada’s greatest actors

Statistics Canada says country gained 419,000 jobs in July

National unemployment rate was 10.9 per cent in July, down from the 12.3 per cent recorded in June

Most Read