Polar Bear Plunge splashes Edmonds into new year

EDMONDS — Some tried to ease into the bone-chilling water but most rushed in, plunged under and popped out.

Whatever their method, there was no getting around the obvious: Puget Sound was cold on the first day of 2014.

Shivering, laughing, smiling and high-fiving, the Polar Bear Plunge participants jumped into the new year with gusto.

“I think it’s symbolic. It’s a new year and a time to try to do new things. It’s a good way to start off,” said Preston Long, 15. Though the water was warmer than he thought it would be, his feet were numb by the time he returned to the beach for a towel.

The Edmonds teen and his mom both took the plunge into the frigid waters near Brackett’s Landing, just north of the ferry dock. The area is home to one of the busiest underwater dive parks on the West Coast. On Wednesday, bathrobe-clad thrill-seekers took over the beach.

The plunge is sponsored by the Edmonds Uplift Society, a drinking club operated out of Daphne’s Bar in downtown. Bar owner Brian Taylor started the event in 2008. He’d participated in New Year’s Day dips off Coney Island in New York. He thought it was a tradition worth sharing in Edmonds.

“This is a great town of people to do this with us,” said Louise Favier, co-owner of the bar.

On Wednesday, Uplift Society members started at the bar with big beers and a round of “God Bless America.” Most wore white, terrycloth bathrobes as they paraded down the street toward the park.

Members pay to have their robes embroidered with the year they make the plunge. Some of the money is donated to the Edmonds Historical Society.

Favier said the event has grown over the years with people from all over joining the fun.

About 50 or so people lined up side by side on the beach. Dozens more stood back, watching and cheering from warmer vantage points.

A whistle signaled the start. There was a collective scream as feet hit the water. There is only one rule: a real plunge means getting wet at least up to the neck.

“It’s just a good whacky way to start the new year,” Ruth Arista said.

The Edmonds woman dove in and out without pause. “It’s best just to get it over with,” she said.

Fellow Uplift Society member Mollie Boyce agreed. “You just need an attitude for fun,” Boyce said.

Wednesday marked Doug MacDonald’s third plunge. He was joined by his son Aidan, 6, and his daughter Maceana, 8.

Aidan’s teeth were still chattering as the Edmonds family posed for a picture to capture the moment.

Maceana had one word for her time in the water — “freezing.”

“It’s a great memory for us,” MacDonald said. “It’s also a good way to flush out any negativity and start fresh. What better way to begin the new year than by feeling completely alive, and in a little pain.”

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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