Annual polar bear swim offers brisk beginning to New Year


If for any anything else, I was able to get the word “shrinkage” passed the editors. From my story, (Daily News, Jan. 1, 2011).

The question most asked of those who take an annual plunge into frigid waters on New Year’s Day is almost always the same: Dear God, why?
And almost as often, the response from members of Polar Bear swim clubs is frosted in bravado.

“Because we can!” declared Peter McCarty, a first-timer who joined nearly a dozen others in an early morning plunge Saturday at the Hansen Dam Aquatic Center for its 10th annual Polar Bear Swim. It wasn’t exactly the Arctic, but the 38-degree morning air combined with 45 degree water made participants wail a bit as they submerged toes and ankles, then calves and bellies into the icy blue pool.

“Wooo! Wooo! Wooo!” exclaimed many, risking numbness, shrinkage and increased heart rates – all for the thrill of the chill.

For some such as Daniel Davis, a 21-year-old Lake View Terrace resident, there also is the satisfaction of surviving a shockingly cold bath.

“I did it the first time on a dare,” said Davis, adding that Saturday’s dip was the coldest he’d experienced during his seven years as Polar Bear swimmer.After participants waded across the pool, many emerged quickly, grabbing towels and a spot at a bonfire to heat up frozen toes.

“It’s definitely the coldest,” said Kevin Davis, Daniel’s father.

“My toes can agree with that because they are still numb.”

Still, the 10-year veteran of the swims said he can think of no better way to start the new year.

“Water has always been a symbol of renewal in our culture,” he said. “This is my annual baptism.”

For others, taking the plunge was a way to appreciate true nature.

“It’s a way to celebrate the San Fernando Valley,” said McCarty, co-chairman for the San Fernando Valley Green Team, which promotes conservation efforts.

“I’m celebrating the environment.”

Other swimmers figured that if they could survive immersion in frigid waters, anything is possible.”It’s a way to get the year started,” said Gabrielle Dagan-Winstead, 44, of Lake View Terrace.

“If I run into any obstacles in June, I can say, ‘I plunged in freezing water in January, so this is nothing.”‘


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