WHIDBEY ISLAND — Hundreds of people are expected to turn out for the 2019 Polar Bear Dive in Freeland for an icy-cold jaunt in the water.
It will be on Jan. 1 at the Double Bluff Beach in Freeland. Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. and the plunge starts at noon.
The annual celebration of the new year began in the early 2000s, according to organizer Jon Gabelein from the Island County 4-H Teen Leadership Club.
Years ago, he got the idea to start the tradition while eating ice cream with friends at Dairy Queen, pondering what could be done as a fun fundraiser for youth leadership programs.
It’s proved to be popular.
“Many participants have said that surviving this challenge on day one of the new year helps to make facing any of their upcoming obstacles less of an issue,” Gabelein said in an email. “For many, it is ‘52 seconds of fury’… and it is also found to be a fun and crazy way to start the year and hang out with some true islanders.”
South Whidbey Parks & Recreation supervisor Carrie Monforte said she expects between 150 to 200 jumpers.
“And then there’s usually about twice that on the shore watching,” she said. “The ones that are keeping the car warm.”
Why do people subject themselves to such cold waters?
“Just for fun,” she said. “It’s a lively way to start the new year. It’s a really lively atmosphere and it’s a family tradition for a lot of people.”
The event costs $15 and includes a shirt and a hot drink of coffee or cocoa. All proceeds benefit the Island County 4-H Teen Leadership Club.
Don’t forget to bundle up: the temperature is typically warmer in the water than outside the water, she said.
“It’s often colder than 40 degrees.”
The event may be titled a “dive,” but for most people “it’s more like run into the water up to your knees splash around, but no diving,” she said, because the water is both cold and shallow.
Bring a towel and items to get warm and dry quickly afterward, she said.
“It’s pretty low-key,” she said.
Last year, they had 120 polar bear divers and raised $1,019 after expenses.
She’s done the dive herself, she said, usually afterward with friends as she’s busy handling registrations.
“It’s a freezing shock to the system,” she said.
“It’s a fun way to start the new year — taking life a little bit lightly.”
And a bit chilly, too.
Visit the Facebook page “Whidbey Island Polar Bear Dive” or contact South Whidbey Parks & Rec at 360-221-6788. Youth interested in becoming involved in the 4H leadership program can contact email@example.com
When: Tuesday Jan. 1. Registration opens at 10:30 a.m. Jump happens at noon.
Where: Double Bluff Beach, Freeland.
Cost: $15 to register (includes an official event t-shirt and free coffee/cocoa.)