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Cold is the new hot: Meet Thunder Bay swimmers who embrace an icy plunge

Nov 16, 2021 06:20AM ● By Editor

Jacob Luczak, left, and Gavin Barrett warm cold extremities by the fire after a 10-minute dip in the 1.5 C. water. Photo: Gord Ellis/CBC

By Gord Ellis · CBC News - Thunder Bay - November 14, 2021

Jumping in a northwestern Ontario river on a hot day in July is a refreshing escape from the heat. But jumping into that same river in early November? Well, that's a different thing altogether.

A group of cold plunge members walk to the Cascades areas of the Current River, with wood for a fire as well as warm clothes and towels.  Photo: Gord Ellis/CBC

Yet every Sunday morning, a group of people from Thunder Bay take these types of cold plunges all winter long.

They are part of a group called Cold Plunge.

Staring the fire is the first order of business before the cold plunge.  Photo: Gord Ellis/CBC

Their chosen destination is the Cascades, a section of the Current River that is managed by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority.

The group walks the short trail to the river, then gathers at the edge of a large pool, getting prepared for the jump.

A couple dozen men and women make up the cold plunge group. Most do it for what they consider health and wellness reasons, but it is also a community.  Photo: Gord Ellis/CBC

Gavin Barrett, one of the regulars, generally tends a fire near the edge of the river to help warm the swimmers once they are out of the frigid water.

Another cold plunge regular, a bearded man name Jacob Luczak, gets ready to take his jump in the clear, cold river that is said to be at 1.5 C.

Every Sunday, a group of hardy swimmers from Thunder Bay take a dip in the frigid waters of the Current River.  Photo: Gord Ellis/CBC)

"I was a wrestler in university and wrestled for Team Canada and stuff," Luczak said. "A big part of recovery was, you know, cold tubbing and stuff like that right after practice. My friends would go in there and try and challenge ourselves. At first, it was really sharp and painful, but you realize how much of a tolerance you build up every day."

The group doesn't immediately jump in, but slowly disrobe to swim gear. Then, one by one, they dive into the ice cold water.

Several of the cold plunge crew stayed in the ice cold water for 10 minutes. They were on a timer and the other members carefully watched them. Photo: Gord Ellis/CBC

It is remarkably quiet when they go in, there is little whooping or other noise. The mood is largely tranquil. That is, until the reporter goes in, then they cheer.  

Some people stay in for just a minute or two, but several stay in for a total of 10 minutes.

Slowly the swimmers paddle back to shore. Once out, the group member put on bathrobes and toques and warm up by the fire.

Katie Darcis enjoying her 4th ever cold plunge, with a friend. Photo: Supplied

Many are shivering, with extremities that are blue and fingers that barely moving.

Yet the mood is upbeat, even jubilant. You sense the team-building aspect of the plunge. "We are all here because we love it, and it is good for us," said another cold plunger named Marco Cupelli. "It's just nice to go with the the community that we're part of, which is really, what it's all about."

To see the original story and read related reports, follow this link to the CBC Thunder Bay website.

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