People ring in the new year in a variety of ways, but few are as cool as what Deer Lake resident Debbie Olson does.
On Jan. 1 she’ll hit the icy waters of Deer Lake in Pasadena for her 25th polar plunge.
At 61, Olson said recently that she can’t believe so many years have passed.
It all started on New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 1993 at Lachman’s Beach in Sydney Mines, N.S.
For a few years before that Olson and her brother, Tommy Olson, had talked about doing a polar plunge and while she was home for Christmas that was the year they decided to go for it.
The best beach they could find without too much snow to have to run through was Lachman’s, which was not far from their family home.
She laughs as she describes the experience.
With her husband, David Hoover, along to document the dip they parked on a dirt road and had to run through the snow to get to the beach where they stripped off their snowsuits and with a “1, 2, 3,” dove into the just below freezing water.
“First of all we had no idea what to expect,” she said with emphasis on the “no.”
They really chose the wrong spot as there were high waves and she wore sandals instead of water shoes. “And they just went.”
To make matters worse there was soot all over the shore from the nearby coal mine.
“Oh my God, we were crazy.”
They stayed in for a bit of swim and then ran out to warm towels and dried off as quick as they could, got dressed and tore off through the snow back to the vehicle.
“That was the wisest thing to do.”
Then it was home to call everyone in the family to tell them what they’d done.
Olson and her brother continued the tradition for the next 14 years and often would make their yearly plunge at Tommy’s cabin in George’s River where the family would gather.
“They cut big holes in the ice,” she said and Tommy would do a backward somersault off the dock.
“But they always cut a woman’s hole for me.” That meant Olson only had to climb down off the dock into the water.
For the most part it was only the two of them who would make the dips, and only occasionally did other family members join them.
After Olson and Hoover stopped going to Nova Scotia for Christmas she decided to continue the plunges here at home.
For a while she did it right across from the power plant, but sometimes the slob ice made it difficult. In recent years she’s found the best place to go is in Pasadena at the boat launch.
A pro at it now she always makes her plunge at 11 a.m., stays in a for about a minute and then it’s out to dry off with a towel and put on her warm boots and old pink bathrobe.
“And I just walk very sedately back to the car.”
While Olson keeps up the tradition her brother no longer does. He says he won’t do it without her.
Her family thinks she’s crazy to keep it up, but it’s her thing to do.
“For me it makes the start of the new year a real start. That’s when I know the new year is there when I go in the water.”