Meet the Polar Bear Plungers
THE POLAR PRO: Matt, Age 35 Number of Polar Plunges: 4 Plunge ensemble: Usually just a regular swimsuit, but Speedos are pretty popular amongst most Polar Bears. Longest time spent in the water after a plunge: 30 seconds, tops. Lessons learned since first plunge: Never wear flip-flops. Seriously. Your feet are so cold that you can't feel whether or not they're still on, and you'll inevitably lose them in the water and end up walking around on ice chunks. Do you wait 30 minutes after eating before a plunge? I never wait 30 minutes after eating before doing anything. Best excuse for chickening out: lake-water allergy, or swim trunks eaten by an actual polar bear? The lake water is questionable year-round so a sudden allergy seems suspect. I'd go with the polar bear. With the winter we've had so far, it's possible there might be some around!
THE NEWBIE: Kevin, Age 26 Number of Polar Plunges: 0 Reason for taking the plunge: First and foremost, the two families. Second, [I’ve] wanted to do one for a long time and got more than 20 members from Anytime Fitness to participate. Safety in numbers: We are most looking forward to doing this as a group. Positive peer pressure in this instance will be awesome and make for an amazing event! Plunge ensemble: We plan on dressing crazy in either superhero costumes, short manly shorts, cutoff jean shorts, or other such fashionable attire. Post-plunge goals: To organize a plunge “across the pond” in Michigan City. Advice from seasoned Polar Bears: "Just jump in." No easy way about it.
THE CHAMP: Michael, Age 36 Number of Polar Plunges: A handful of times over the years. Longest time spent in the water after a plunge: One year the lake was frozen, and we sat out on the ice. I was out there for about a half hour before Brian’s [Marchal] mom, a registered nurse, made us come in. Another time it was over five minutes. Again, we were made to come in by Brian's mom. Survival strategy: I play paddle ball [in the water]. Takes your mind off of it. Favorite way to warm up after a plunge: Jameson. Most triumphant plunge: Back when we used to see who could stay in the longest, I had that dubious honor a couple of times.
THE SOCKLESS WONDER: Grant, Age 28 Number of Polar Plunges: 3 Pre-plunge training: Cold showers are way worse than the real plunge. Plunge ensemble: [I put on] lots of layers before the plunge to make sure I'm nice and toasty beforehand. That way, once I strip down, the breeze is actually more refreshing than painful. Lessons learned since first plunge: Shoes are required for the plunge, but socks are NOT. Having those sponges of icy water next to your feet and trying to take them off with numb fingers on the beach is significantly harder than just taking off shoes! Best excuse for chickening out: No excuses! Anyone can take the plunge and have a great time. The mix of people at the beach is incredible: old, young, fat, skinny, guys, gals, mustaches, clean-shaven, costumes, Speedos, capes, you name it. Everyone takes the plunge together and has an awesome time! Photo courtesy of Lakeview Polar Bear Club.
Emily Wachowiak is a Chicago-based writer and editor.