Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Polar Bear Challenge

Every year in the middle of winter, an event is held in the Champagne Valley: The Polar Bear Challenge. Anyone can enter to swim either 25 meters or 100 meters across the Dragon Peaks Dam at the resort by the same name. The water is normally icy cold. This year it was the coldest ever: 7 °C/44.6 °F ! 

Last month, Grant put his name down to swim the 25 meters. Although he's a strong swimmer, he'd heard about the stringent conditions of the water and thought he'd rather do the shorter swim than have to opt out of the long race because of cramps or other cold-related problems. 

Ironically, last week we were at our motorcycle AGM in Bloemfontein and the name of the weekend was Ysbeertjie which translates into English as Polar Bear. 

Champagne Valley Polar Bear Challenge is held in aid of animal welfare and the proceeds of the entry fees, donations and lots of pet food goes to the local township animals and an animal shelter in a neighboring town. 
Grant's shirt had "Ysbeertjie" / Polar Bear on the back 
The setting of this dam at the resort is particularly idyllic
 There is a great festive air at this event
 People brought their dogs, small...
... and large  

One young lady even brought a kitten
 Volunteers registered the participants
 One jolly young crowd wore glittering party hats - even while they swam! 
 I  loved the colorful reflection in the water
 The resort restaurant did a roaring trade in meals, drinks and snacks 

 Grant looking wild and woolly as he moves across to the opposite side of the dam
 These swimmers wait for the start of the 100m swim

 Two boats were in the water to assist or load any swimmer in trouble 
 The first swimmer in is Papa Bear who swims the 100m after which swimmers are set off one-by-one to do the challenge 
 This lady did the 100m and then swam up to the bank below the 25m participants
 A swimmer experiencing cramps was loaded onto the boat and taken to the end
Craig (my hiking friend) and Grant wait their turn 
When we arrived at the spot where the 25 m swimmers set off from, the other two adults said they were pleased to see they weren't the only grown-ups taking part in the kiddies challenge! 
 Note the warm dress of the spectators! 
 Craig was first off the mark with Grant hot (er, cold!) on his heels

Two grey-headed and brave men reach the end! 

Back on the other side of the dam, Grant dried and got dressed and rejoined me, Steve, Estelle and Muthi on the restaurant veranda.
Steve, Estelle and Muthi - this canine was the oldest spectator at Saturday's event! 

When questioned about his experience in the water afterwards, Grant said he has never been in such cold water. He says that he intended to swim free-style which is his strong point; however when he came up after diving into the water, he was so cold he couldn't lift his arms out of the water. So he swam breast stroke all the way. He says he'll do it again next year; the 100m meter challenge! 


I'm linking my post to Our World Tuesday here


  1. Congrats to Grant! I, like him, barely have enough fat to stay warm in water that cold.

  2. These folks are so much braver than I. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

  3. Congrats to Grant. Great cause.
    I swam in the Antarctic, and the cold certainly took my breath away. Worth it though.

  4. Well done Grant, too cold for me even with a full wet suit on!!! Have a good week Diane

  5. WELL DONE GRANT1is right. I couldn't think of anything worse. I'm such a woos when it comes to cold water.

  6. I agree and Grant gets Well Done! from me to... I would never get in that cold, the coldest I have been in and that was about 40 seconds, is 20 degrees warmer at 64 F.... everyone looks like they are having a blast. I would love to watch.

  7. Wow, well done. That is a very nice festival. I love it. O wat snaaks en o n dapper hoor. Wel uit kyk hy geen longontsteking kry. Gelukkig het hy 'n goeie zwemsuit aan.

  8. Oh hats off to these brave swimmers Jo, 7C is not to be sneezed 😉 at!

  9. That looks like a whole lot of fun, and beautiful countryside!

    It's done here as well, often around New Year's Day. Locally a section of ice is cut away in one of the rivers, or elsewhere, in Toronto, for instance, Lake Ontario might have enough open area close to shore for polar bear swimmers to have a go at it.

  10. Good for Grant... WOW---I could NEVER do that.... I'm so impressed... What fun for the entire crowd.... I'd enjoy being there to take pictures and WATCH.... ha


  11. I have respect for all the swimmers! They were so brave to swim in water as cold as this.

  12. What a fun but chilly event ~ no? ~ Grant ~ congrats ~ Great photos of the neat event ~ ^_^

    Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog ~ ^_^

  13. I didn't even catch the temperature of the water, but I'm going brrrrrrrrr

  14. Interesting photo series and well done Grant!

  15. More power to him!!
    That 2nd photo from the top is stunning country!!!

    I like the fact that the proceeds go to animal rescue and rehab.

    PS...LOVE the new profile photo of you Jo.

  16. Bravo for all the brave swimmers who took the challenge. It sure did look like fun. I'm afraid that the water is way too cold for me but I would have loved to take photos and cheer them on. Good show and great photos Jo.

  17. Beautiful and scenic place. Excellent competition and good job by Grant.

  18. We have a similar event here on New Year's Day though it isn't as organized or structured. If you want to participate you show up at the ocean side and you make a dash for the cold water when the start gun goes off. I don't think too many people actually swim here. They just run in and get cold and wet and bragging rights of course. I think your lot is actually having to withstand the water for a spell by swimming. Brrr! The setting is lovely though.

  19. I love swimming but no way you would get me in water that cold


  20. WOW! That was brave but well done for completely the swim


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo