EDMONDS — At noon Sunday, a few hundred people in bathing robes and swimsuits gathered outside of Daphnes Bar in Edmonds, spilling out the front doors and blocking a lane of traffic.
The jolly group buzzed with energy as they prepared to plunge into the 47.7 degree waters of Puget Sound. Brain Taylor, owner of Daphnes Bar, started the Polar Plunge tradition 15 years ago. This New Year’s Day, he handed out free Rainier tall boys to warm up the rowdy crowd.
Miles Darrell, 38, stood outside, wearing a “No. 1 Dad” robe and holding his youngest child, Shiloh. Darrell moved to Edmonds from Saint Lucia, a country in the Caribbean, and has been hyping himself up to join in this tradition for years.
“The first couple years, I’d get ready, open up the front door, feel a chill and say, ‘Nope,’ and go back inside,” he said, chuckling. “I’ve been spoiled all my life with warm water, but this year I decided to just go for it.”
Excited chatter and music crescendoed just before Taylor’s friend Edith Farrar — donning a tasseled shako hat and raising at drum major’s baton — blew her whistle. Standing atop a step stool, Farrar started cheers of “hip, hip, hooray!” and a round of singing God Bless America before marching the group five blocks down to the sea.
Hundreds of people had already gathered at Brackett’s Landing, lining the beach, pier and jetty. Sisters Kristan Sanchez, 57, and Dawn Parker, 61, who had GoPro cameras strapped to their chests, said the adrenaline rush would get them through the shock of frigid water.
At 1 p.m., Farrar blew her whistle once more, and the crowd surged into the water. Shrieks, gasps, and laughter bubbled up from the white water.
Edmonds resident Vanessa Freshwater came screaming onto the shore, gasping and excited.
“We wanted to kick the new year off right without fear or inhibition, and this is the way to do it,” Freshwater said, beaming.
The whole gamut of ages and experience were represented. A man in trunks and a Santa hat ran from the water. A shivering group of friends passed around a bottle of Fireball. Women in matching swim caps and suits swam farther out, treading water.
The Larson Family joined for their eighth year in a row, with 9-year-old Jack Larson having made the plunge every year since he was 4.
“It’s a great start to the new year,” said Jack’s grandpa, Dan Larson. “We put the past behind and start fresh. The cold water is invigorating, and I’m with my grandkids and family — we even have matching robes.”
He pulled out a sapphire robe with “Edmonds Polar Plunge” embroidered in white on the chest. During the height of the COVID pandemic, the Larson’s socially distanced during the annual plunge.
Nearly everyone was in and out of the water within 30 seconds — everyone except 12-year-old Caroline Bernatek.
Twelve minutes after Farror blew her whistle, Bernatek still bobbed in the waves, her skin turning red. Bernatek’s cousin had made a deal with her: Bernatek would get $1 for every minute she stayed in the sea.
“I’ll be in here for at least thirty minutes,” Bernatek yelled to the shore, smiling.
Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.
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