As others wait on the countdown, a swimmer realizes she’s jumped the gun at the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing on Wednesday in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

As others wait on the countdown, a swimmer realizes she’s jumped the gun at the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing on Wednesday in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

47-degree Polar Plunge: ‘Something crazy’ to start the decade

Hundreds of participants splashed into Puget Sound — and into 2020 — at the annual Edmonds event.

EDMONDS — It was a brisk wakeup, like downing a cup of coffee, said Mike Selberg, 53, of Shoreline.

Selberg stood on the beach clutching a spent bottle of Cook’s sparkling wine, among the hundreds of people who dove into a new decade Wednesday at the Polar Plunge in Edmonds.

In one big human wave, the crowd rushed into the gasp-inducing waters of Puget Sound, a chilly 47 degrees at showtime in the afternoon. Some held hands with friends. Some went barefoot on the pebbles. Many wore sandals, Crocs or aqua socks. Afterward, they draped themselves in candy-striped beach towels. Many didn’t bother to take off their T-shirts, and wet cotton clung to their baptized skin.

The forecast said rain, but clouds drifted apart and revealed the sun by 1 p.m. at Brackett’s Landing, beside the ferry dock in Edmonds.

The annual event began 13 years ago, imported from Coney Island by New York City expat Brian Taylor, who owns Daphne’s at 415½ Main St.

Before the swim, revelers in white bathrobes gathered on the sidewalk at the tiny bar, with cans of Rainier beer. The Polar Plunge has grown to the point it would probably still happen if Taylor gave up organizing it, he said. He glanced down at the years stitched onto his robe to remind himself when this once-small, goofy thing turned into a city tradition. It used to be just a few dozen people. Sometime in the early 2010s, he said, he made the short march from the bar to the beach, turned a corner and saw a crowd of hundreds. For the 20th year, Taylor wants to bring in a full marching band.

Florida resident Zoe Merrow quickly exits the water as divers in drysuits head into Puget Sound during the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing on Wednesday in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Florida resident Zoe Merrow quickly exits the water as divers in drysuits head into Puget Sound during the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing on Wednesday in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

“I’ve got seven years to make that happen,” he said.

The atmosphere is part-Halloween.

Dean Olson, 59, of Edmonds, handed out a few cigars — the longest, cheapest kind he could find.

Under a robe, he wore a patterned tie, a blinding-orange T-shirt and a pink-and-gray swimsuit from the ’80s. He figured he’d pop out in photos.

“It’s every bad color combination,” he said.

In the screaming and laughing crowd were kids, seniors and everyone in between.

Many swimmers said they didn’t test the water to see how cold it was. Instead, they’d just jump right in.

What were they looking forward to in 2020?

As others head in, a man raises his arms in celebration as he exits Puget Sound at the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing on Wednesday in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

As others head in, a man raises his arms in celebration as he exits Puget Sound at the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing on Wednesday in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald) Purchase Photo

“Just enjoying life, not worrying about the little things,” Selberg said. He spent part of last year recovering from a back surgery.

“I’ve been building a business,” said Jami Hammond-Christensen, 40, a Realtor. “It’s been taxing on our family, on me, on everybody. The fruit of all that hard work is coming together. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

“I don’t know,” said Alexavier Pearson, 10, a student at St. Luke School in Shoreline. “More video games?”

“I haven’t really thought too much about it,” said Tom Gaschk, 40, of Edmonds, who works for a candy distribution company. “Just having some great success in my career, and a lot of good time with my family.”

At a gathering at Daphne’s Bar, Chris and Valerie Kelley take a selfie before joining in the annual Polar Bear Plunge. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

At a gathering at Daphne’s Bar, Chris and Valerie Kelley take a selfie before joining in the annual Polar Bear Plunge. (Andy Bronson / The Herald) Purchase Photo

Mollie Boyce, who was part of the original group of plungers, said she’s getting married this year.

“Retirement,” said Karen Rautenberg, 57, a librarian at Edmonds-Woodway High School. She’s been doing a New Year’s plunge with her faculty friends for about seven years.

“It’s a chance to mark a new day, to start clean and to have good friends to do it with, right?” Rautenberg said. “And to do something crazy with people.”

Afterward, her group warms up with chowder and chili.

Jill Wright, of Lynnwood, suffered a stroke about four years ago. She did a swim like this on a New Year’s Day before the stroke, and on Wednesday she wanted to try again. She hoped to last maybe 20 seconds in the water. She’s planning big trips this year, one to Yellowstone and one to a niece’s wedding in Oregon. So there’s a lot to look forward to.

Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; chutton@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @snocaleb.

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