Being cool for a cause: Speedo Steve invites you to take part in Ottawa’s polar bear dip

Speedo Steve (left) and a friend take the plunge during the 2011 polar bear dip

Looking for a challenge to start off the New Year strong? How about taking part in Ottawa’s annual polar bear dip, this year branded The Great Canadian Chill? Read on for all the information you need for this cool — and maybe a little crazy — event. 

This year's event is taking place at noon on Jan. 1, 2012, at Britannia Beach

I began about 12 years ago with the Rideau Osgoode Karate Club (although I was not a member) and they ran the dip in Ottawa at Mooney’s Bay. The first time I jumped in, it was like I ran a marathon: Feeling a great sense of accomplishment and really exhilarated. I jumped in twice some years because it was so nice; but the worst year was when it was -28 with the wind.

When the club decided to stop doing it, I thought someone would step forward — so I waited a year. No one did … and so I took it on. With the help of my computer and constantly talking to the media I was able to have a very successful first year. With the Mooney’s Bay site, they would get about 25 dippers and maybe 50 people watching.

Serious plungers wear very little clothing during Ottawa's annual polar bear dip

Much to my surprise, my first year brought out 45 dippers and 450 people watching. And then it continued to grow the next year — with 65 dippers and 1,000 people watching.

There may be a little less ice at the 2012 polar bear dip, but it's certain to still be chilly

With the introduction of the Sears Great Canadian Chill last year, going forward, there is now the ability to make this event even bigger than ever before. It has gone from a one-person operation with volunteers, to an organization who can truly take it to great heights. 

Some much needed details for you about this year’s event:

  • What: Sears Great Canadian Chill – polar bear dip to raise funds for pediatric oncology centres in Ontario
  • When: Jan. 1, 2012, at 12 pm (noon)
  • Where: Britannia Beach (Near Carling Ave. & Pinecrest Rd.)
  • Note: Snacks and plenty of hot chocolate will be available!

And a few words of wisdom / some advice for those looking to do a polar bear dip for the first time:

  • Do it now to get it off your bucket list.
  • Always wear shoes. 
  • Enjoy the experience. 
  • Last but not least, wear as little as possible – hence how I got my name.

This is Speedo Steve — or as CJOH once called me, an urban legend — and I hope to see you there.

 Thanks, Steve! Sounds like an interesting challenge to set 2012 off shockingly right — and all for a great cause! If you’re planning on attending, share your photos with us at or via Twitter @LTOttawa. And don’t forget to donate here.