‘It’s the burn that I crave’: Nanaimo is a hotbed for cold water plunge enthusiasts


Stepping bravely into the frigid waters of Departure Bay in Nanaimo, Anne Marie Gibb didn’t hesitate.

She knew it was going to hurt, but she says the cold’s familiar hold would wash over her and free her — even briefly from the nightmare she survived next to her best friend on a Nanaimo street.

“It felt like it was something I was never going to get past,” said Gibb, a Nanaimo resident and member of Ocean Dips Nanaimo-Cold Plunging Crew.

The Nanaimo woman was driving with her best friend, 54-year-old Sean Brown, on Nanaimo’s Haliburton Street on July 23, 2022. He experienced a moment of crisis and was overwhelmed by his bipolar disorder. She called 911 as he went into a meltdown.

READ MORE: ‘It should never have happened’: Parents of man killed by Nanaimo RCMP pleaded for help

“There was a person in crisis, his girlfriend told them that, she told them he needed to go to the hospital,” Sean Brown’s father, Lester Brown, told CHEK News following the shooting.

Instead, Sean Brown was shot and killed by RCMP, when Brown produced a replica handgun. Gibb was standing right there with him when it happened, and she said it caused her to shut down, fearing she would never escape her PTSD, until friend Valene Grovum asked her to join her for a cold water plunge.

“I stay in for as long as I feel comfortable,” said Gibb, while soaking up to her neck in the ocean,” she said. “It’s put me in a better frame of mind. It’s made me wake up every day and made me look forward to things more.”

“It’s really fun. I feel really lucky to have this group,” said Valene Grovum, who started the group Ocean Dips Nanaimo-Cold Plunging Crew.

According to Grovum, she started cold water immersion after suffering a severe concussion in a car accident.

“It took away my symptoms for several hours. So it was a really powerful healing tool,” said Grovum.

Within months of starting the Nanaimo group, over 50 enthusiasts have joined, with their benefits ranging from better circulation, an ease of anxiety, fewer night terrors and pain relief.

“I’m numb. A good numb? Comfortably numb,” said Kelly Gaboury, a member of Ocean Dips Nanaimo-Cold Plunging Crew

“It’s the burn that I crave,” she said.

According to the Wall Street Journal, researchers are testing the potential benefits of this social media craze, and the impact cold water may have on depression and anxiety. But Gibb said there is no doubt in her, that the frigid soaks she was first scared of, are just the shock she needs.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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