It’s an annual event for the brave, weak of mind or strong of drink. The Polar Bear Plunge can even combine all of those factors as hundreds gathered at Coeur d’Alene’s Sanders Beach for a frigid dunking to begin the new year.
Clad in everything from body paint to a mermaid’s outfit, about 200 or so revelers jumped into the water, reportedly around 37 degrees, matching the 37-degree outside temperature at noon.
“It’s a frosty clean, cleansing start to 2010,” said Shawn Clary, 29, of Spokane, who was about to take his first plunge.
Clary’s friend, 27-year-old Dan Kreft, wasn’t as enthused. “It’s definitely not the dumbest thing I’ve every done.”
About 500 relatives and friends gathered with fleece blankets and beach towels to await the dripping throng as it made its way out of the frigid lake. Some hardy souls actually turned the plunge into a contest by swimming the fastest to the closest no-wake buoy.
Rozalind Kitt, 29, of Spokane, was one of the few who actually complained about the temperature.
“We didn’t have to run through three feet of snow … like last year,” Kitt said. “It is so warm this year. It’s kind of like cheating.”
Trisha Provinsal, 26, said she did the plunge out of a challenge.
“It’s kind of like when someone asks you to do it. You have to. It’s pride,” Provinsal said as she shivered before taking the plunge.
Meighan Rasley jumped into the icy waters as a personal gift.
“It’s my birthday,” said Rasley, who went in with her sister, Cortney. “It might not be very glamorous, but I’m turning 32 in style.”
Harvey McKinley, 40, of Coeur d’Alene took his first plunge this year along with friend Dan Pugh, who five times has cheated hypothermia in the name of fun.
Both McKinley and Pugh wore business suits and ties.
“Everyone else wears bathing suits. Why not a business suit?” McKinley said. “You only live once.”