Unlike last year, Polar Bears set to revel in tolerable conditions

Organizer of New Year’s Day plunge says that after having to cancel last year’s event he expects big crowd
Ozaukee Press staff

Last year’s Polar Bear plunge in Port Washington was cancelled due to frigid conditions, but it doesn’t look like this year’s dip into Lake Michigan will have that same issue.

Mild winter weather is predicted for next week, and that, combined with the fact there wasn’t a Polar Bear plunge last year, had organizers predicting a record crowd.

“There’s a lot of talk around town of first timers who want to do it,” said Jon Crain, president of  the Port Polar Bears.

Crain noted that the group’s membership — the only condition for membership is taking the plunge — has fluctuated from a low of about 10 people to a high of almost 200.  

The crowd far outnumbers the Polar Bears, Crain added, noting there are usually three audience members for every participant.

“This is really a spectator sport,” he said.

The Polar Bears are scheduled to take their annual first swim of the year at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 1, at the end of Jackson Street in Port Washington.

Last year’s cancellation was the first in the group’s history that he knows of, Crain noted.

“I really think we made the right decision,” he said. 

Crain, who said he took his first plunge when he was 21 “and we were doing some liquid brainstorming the night before,” acknowledged many people do it once just so they can say they’ve taken the plunge.

But for him, it’s tradition. This will be the 22nd time he participates.

“I don’t feel right asking people to do something I don’t do,” he said. “Besides, then no one would believe me that it’s fun.”

The worst part, Crain said, is the anticipation.

“It’s the before part, when I’m asking myself, ‘Why am I doing this,’” he said. “When you get it, it kind of zaps you for a minute. The adrenaline kicks in so much when you’re in the water, you don’t notice the cold. 

“It’s refreshing. It’s kind of hard to explain — to understand it, you have to do it.”

Through the years, Crain said, people have suggested that they move the Polar Bear plunge to either north or south beach in Port. However, he said, holding the event in the harbor is a way to maintain safety.

“The lake is unpredictable,” he said. “You could get ice shelves or have rip currents.”

Crain had a few pieces of advice for first-time Polar Bears.

“Make sure you have footwear on,” he said. “And make sure you know where your towel is. You’re so frantic when you come out, and that’s when you start to get cold. Minutes are critical when you’re that cold and wet.”


Click Here to Send a Letter to the Editor

Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


User login