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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Fun for some, a mental challenge for others: Hundreds dip into frigid Lake Coeur d’Alene New Year’s Day for annual Polar Bear Plunge

Lake Coeur d’Alene’s temperature was significantly warmer than the air Saturday, but the facial expressions on people darting out of the chilly water told a different story.

Hundreds of people dashed into the frigid lake at noon after a countdown, and then immediately retreated to the snow-covered Sanders Beach as part of the annual New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge in Coeur d’Alene.

Some swimmers, like Cheney resident Rob Root, did not retreat to shore.

In fact, Root easily outlasted everyone by staying in the lake for 25 minutes.

It was an impressive feat, but well short of his one-hour goal. He said the lake was colder than it has been recently and forced him out of the water earlier than he wanted.

At noon, the lake was 33 degrees and the air temperature was 14.

“My fingers hurt,” Root said on his walk back to his truck. “That’s probably the worst part. But no, it feels good, aside from that.”

Root said training and breathing techniques prepared him for Saturday’s plunge, which he has done twice before.

He said he and about 10 others have been taking a dip into the lake every Sunday since September. He said they’ll be back at it Sunday.

The Coeur d’Alene plunge was the second of the day for John Durrant, who dipped into Lake Pend Oreille in Bayview earlier in the day. He said the double dip was at his friend’s son’s insistence, so all three experienced the chill of both lakes Saturday.

Durrant said his toes never warmed up after the Lake Pend Oreille plunge. The three stopped for ice cream between the two plunges, perhaps adding to the chill.

Durrant said Wim Hof, a Dutch motivational speaker known for his ability to endure frigid temperatures, largely inspired him to take the Coeur d’Alene plunge the last five years. He said they help build discipline .

He said he has a stock tank filled with cold water that he sits in at home.

“But we wanted to join the crowd,” Durrant said of Saturday’s plunges.

Meanwhile, Saturday marked the first Polar Bear Plunge for Breanna Nolan.

She said she and her two friends who joined her were not prepared. The three said standing barefooted in the snow was the worst part.

“Our feet hurt so bad,” Nolan said.

She said a generous man gave them hot chocolate to warm up.

“It was fun, and I would probably do it next year but better prepared,” Nolan said.

Ken Heller also took the plunge for the first time and said he will be back .

After drying off and slowly putting his clothes back on, he finally became warm again.

“It’s the start of the new year,” Heller said. “Why not start it out with an adventure and do something you’ve never done before?”

Santa Claus also walked into the lake.

Ray Roberts walked into the water in a Santa suit and then peeled it off when he returned to shore.

Roberts, who plunged into the lake last year, said he did it to improve his mental toughness, and because it was a good way to start the year.

“It pretty much awakens a whole other part of you in a way,” said Roberts, who takes cold showers every day.

A Coeur d’Alene Fire Department crew was on hand at Sanders Beach in case any of the swimmers needed medical attention. But Capt. Greg Rod said no one did.

He said before the plunge that diving into the cold lake would be a shock to the participants’ bodies, but most people in relatively good health should be able to handle it.

“They’re going to have to get drier quicker,” Rod said when asked about the cold weather. “They can’t stay in their wet clothes long after this.”