Plunging Into A New Year

Veterans of Angle Lake’s annual Polar Bear Plunge were in agreement about one thing: It would be an absolutely perfect day for a swim, if it weren’t for it being just 30 degrees outside!

Click on the picture above to view the event photo album

The noon forecast called for a not-exactly balmy high of 34 degrees at the Angle Lake Manor Beach, forcing me to take notes using a pencil after the ink in my pen froze. I started to debate the wisdom of this year’s editorial decision to force myself into the lake again for journalistic purposes. However it appeared that most of the other beachgoers were more enthusiastic than apprehensive. Several participants were returning for their fifth consecutive year while several more were there joining for the very first time. The larger of the crowd wisely chose to come visit with neighbors; enjoy the delicious snacks and warm refreshments provided by the Angle Lake Shore Club to all participants; and to watch in bewilderment and amusement as the plungers partook in the swim.

“Ten minutes!” was called out by Jonathan Standridge. The beach got anxious, with some more-seasoned plungers starting to remove clothes. At five minutes, most of the beach was in odd states of undress – pantsless but wearing a down jacket, for example, or bundled up in a scarf, gloves, a hat and a bikini. We each staked out a spot on the shores amid the other people who were intent on freezing to death, and waited for the official countdown to hit zero.

Finally, it was time. As the clock turned to noon, a countdown was done with great enthusiasm by Coralie and Rosalie (aka: the Vennetti Twins) and a line of people ran toward the water screaming, though I wasn’t clear if they were in pain or just excited.

Recalling my first experience in doing the dip, most plungers find that adrenaline blocks the initial shock of entering the cold water until full submersion occurs. It is when you dip your head under that your lungs begin to protest the sudden temperature change, breathing comes in short gasps and after righting yourself, you realized your in water too deep to stand in. That is when the swimmer instincts kick in and you frantically make your way to the swim dock. Emerging from the water, perched atop the platform you feel an immense sense of achievement which quickly erodes away when you realize that you still have to make the trip back to the shore before you’re done! After a moment for mustering the necessary courage (or after you realize that it seems warmer in the 40 degree water than it does standing in the 30 degree air!) you jump in and desperately make your way to the blazing fire that beckons you back to shore. While it seems nearly an eternity to make the full round trip, the whole affair lasts about 3 minutes in total; returning to a normal body temperature takes considerably longer!

All in all, it is a less painful experience than one might imagine. Aside from feet lingering in a state of partial frozenness for a few hours, the pain and suffering inflicted by the lake really is quite minimal. And as evidence of returning veterans, any unpleasant memories are erased by the passage of twelve months time before the next New Years Day Polar Bear Plunge.

A special shout out of recognition and appreciation is given to Tani Rae Standridge and her team of volunteers who organized and successfully executed this extraordinary community activity. A collection of event images captured by Tani Rae and Jonathan Standridge; Julie Hill; and Valerie Vavrick are available for viewing at:

1 comment:

TaniRae said...

What a great article. So descriptive I feel like I did the plunge. Thank you for that. Now each year this event arrives, I will read your article and FEEL like i did it. Way to go. We had 105 participants, 11 jumpers and we collected $75 for the Tukwila Pantry and $75 cash and half a van full of food for the Highline Food Bank. What amazing neighbors we have.