Polar Plunge swimmers shiver into New Year
Lunacy might be defined as jumping into the wintery water of Flathead Lake at temperatures barely above freezing, wearing nothing more than swimsuits or clothes more suitable for a summer day, but as human nature goes, many people are up for doing crazy things.
The Polson Polar Plunge is an annual bone-chilling New Year’s Day event held along the shoreline and boat launch ramp of Riverside Park. This is the 21st year for the event. First-time plunger Andrew Jensen joined more than 50 swimmers who plunged into the frigid lake water. “It’s crazy,” he said moments after returning from the water.
Jensen said his friends were signed up to do the event so he felt motivated to join them. “I wanted to go in and do it with them,” he said. “I thought it was something a little crazy and different to do for the New Year.”
The Polar Plunge is an annual tradition for veteran plunger Monica Cleveland and co-plunger Amanda Harrod. They both said the cold-water plunge was a good way to put the past behind them and start the New Year fresh.
Luckily for the plungers, the land temperatures hovered in the mid-20s, which was balmy compared to past events with snow, high winds and temperatures dipping below zero. Even with good conditions, tortured screams could be heard as plungers scampered into the icy waters, dunked their heads, quickly turned around and scampered right back out. Plungers could be seen racing towards warm towels and dry clothes.
“Wooh!” a man said while looking for his towel. “That was invigorating.” Another participant wrapped up tightly in a blanket and huddled with friends. Her teeth were chattering as she said, “That was cold.” Several hardy individuals spent a bit of time in the water, and a couple men went for a brief swim.
Dave Bull, who would rather be called an event instigator than an organizer, noted that none of the plungers suffered from the effects of hypothermia or frostbite as far as he knows. “There were only smiles frozen to the faces of both participants and spectators,” he said. “It’s a great way to start the New Year.”