It was a chilly yet refreshing jump into the new year for participants in the 14th annual Polar Bear Plunge on Monday at Double Bluff Beach Park.
Temperatures in the mid-30s didn’t deter about 120 people from shedding their warm clothing and diving into the 47-degree water. Some sprinted from the beach and dove head first into the water, while others took a slower approach. Both came away with the same chilling effect.
If there were awards for who could stay in the water the longest, Jon Paine would have taken first place. The 44-year-old Langley resident remained in the water long after the majority of participants returned to the beach to dry off. Paine used an inner tube to float, but kept his body submerged. Paine’s 10-year-old son Dylan tried to stay in the water too, but he couldn’t outlast his dad.
“We try to be the last ones out,” Jon Paine said.
Jon Paine called it an “invigorating” experience, Dylan Paine “just liked going in the water.”
“I thought it was going to be worse, but it wasn’t bad,” Dylan Paine said. “It got worse going deeper and deeper.”
The Paines, who have participated for the past three years, agreed it was a proper kickoff to 2018.
“It’s a good way to start it off,” Jon Paine said.
It was a first time experience for another father and son duo, Jim and Michael Copenhaver of Langley. Jim Copenhaver, 56, was impressed by the energy on the beach and was proud to have “jumped in freezing water.”
“It was awesome,” he said.
The two discussed before the event whether or not to fully submerge but quickly tossed away the idea.
“You gotta go in,” Jim Copenhaver said.
“It was pretty cold,” added Michael Copenhaver, 26.
Organizers said the event, which benefits the Island County 4-H Teen Ambassadors, was a success despite seeing a slight dip in participation compared to previous years. Carrie Monforte, program coordinator for South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District, theorized that some of its usual participants went to a similar new year’s swim in Oak Harbor. Monforte said the vibe of the event was still fun and social.
“It seems like people are hanging out a little longer, which is always nice,” Monforte said.
The weather has been surprisingly good the past few years compared to previous events where snow and wind made things especially chilly.
“It was sunny out again,” said Jon Gabelein, advisor for the teen ambassadors. “Really fun crowd this year.”
Greenbank resident Karl Olsen, 61, remembers what those cold-stricken days were like when the jump was held at Freeland Park. He’s participated in the plunge for at least the past 10 years and could think of only three or four times when weather conditions were favorable like they were on Monday with sunny skies and no wind.
“It’s fun to just jump in there with a bunch of people in the cold,” Olsen said. “It’s nicer on days when it’s like this. It’s invigorating. It’s refreshing. It’s just fun.”
Olsen and his wife, Deb Lund, continued a 25-year-long tradition of writing their new year’s resolutions in the sand during a low tide.
“Then the water comes and takes them away,” Lund said. “Either they go off to the universe to become reality or there’s no sign of them. Either way works for us.”