Participants going and and coming out of the water high five each other Tuesday, Jan. 1, during the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Participants going and and coming out of the water high five each other Tuesday, Jan. 1, during the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Edmonds Polar Bear Plunge tests will, refreshes the mind

Everyone has a reason to take part in the event: Maybe it’s spiritual, or maybe it’s an excuse for a Rainier.

EDMONDS — Everyone who participates in the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing has a reason.

Sherry Hinds said the New Year’s Day event is a chance at rejuvenation.

“It just refreshes my soul for the beginning of the year,” she said.

Hinds, who called herself an “aquaphile,” said she first participated five years ago. It was originally her coworker’s idea, she said, but when the day arrived, that coworker was nowhere to be found.

Hinds went through with it anyway. She’s done the plunge every year since.

Aaron White, on the other hand, said it’s a test of will.

“It’s proving it. Proving that you can do it,” he said. “You know it’s going to suck.”

The reason doesn’t have to be so spiritual or so emotional, though. Some think jumping in freezing water looks fun. Or, in the case of a group of people who gather beforehand at Daphne’s Bar, clad in bathrobes, it’s a good excuse to drink a Rainier beer or two — or several.

Debbie Horton and Eddie Ventola, coworkers at NAPA Auto Parts in Lynnwood, double-dog dared each other. The smack talk escalated so much throughout the year that neither could back out.

Teenager Ashlyn White said she was only doing it because her parents promised her breakfast at Claire’s Restaurant. She got banana pancakes with Nutella.

Watching people as they line up on the edge of Puget Sound can offer a glimpse into their hearts and souls. Some dance with the jitters, while others stand stoically, trying not to shiver. Children and adults alike run back and forth on the beach to get the blood flowing.

Visibly shaking with some combination of excitement and nervousness, teenager Alex Foster said he has been building up to the moment by testing the water periodically.

His assessment: “My feet are really numb.”

Late arrivals hit the water after the first wave of participants leave Tuesday, Jan. 1, during the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Late arrivals hit the water after the first wave of participants leave Tuesday, Jan. 1, during the annual Polar Bear Plunge at Brackett’s Landing in Edmonds. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

For every brave soul, there’s a spectator. They’re the fully clothed ones, often seen steadfastly holding towels for their sea-seeking counterparts. They’ll say something like, “I spectate,” or, “I take pictures.” Sometimes, they’ll admit that they want to see their beloved ones suffer in the cold — just a little bit.

Katie Ventola said she’s there to keep her spouse alive.

“I have a vested interest in my husband not catching pneumonia and dying,” she said.

Hinds has tried everything to get her husband to dive with her. She even promised to watch “Caddyshack,” a movie he’s only allowed to watch when she’s not around. She’s not a fan of Rodney Dangerfield.

But, he said, he’d rather stay dry.

Everyone must make a decision in the moments leading up to the plunge. Do they fully submerge themselves, or do they just get their feet wet? Sometimes, it’s a choice that’s made in a nano-second. As the body touches the water, an animalistic fight-or-flight response takes over.

At 1 p.m., pandemonium commenced: Squealing and screaming, yelling and hollering and lots and lots of laughter. People high-stepped and splashed through the water, trying to get their hair wet as fast as possible, so they can say they’ve officially “done it.”

And, within seconds, it’s over.

The new year is here.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

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