The polar bears of Sheboygan, Wisconsin took the annual New Years Day plunge into the freezing cold waters of Lake Michigan today. No one was blue when they came out of the water, but the look on their faces told spectators just how cold the water was. It was a mere 22 degrees outside and the wind had subsided a bit as the polar bears ran onto the snow-covered sand and into the water.
This tradition has been going on every year for the last thirty-nine years. Tom Jens, 57, has been taking the plunge since 1970. Justin Bohn, who is the president of the Polar Bear Club, has been jumping in the lake since he was eight years old. Today, at the age of 26, he is still going strong. Justin's dad Art Bohn was the president of the club previously and started taking the polar bear plunge in 1974. Justin does it for the rush. His dad, Art said that it takes his breathe away. He is 57 years old and still enjoys a dip on New Years Day.
The gang registered at Dave's Who Inn at 9th and Indiana, just a short distance from Deland Park and North side beach where hundreds of polar bears took the plunge to celebrate the New Year. It was cold and the water looked as uninviting as any water does during the winter months. Those who registered at 10:00am waited with anticipation as the clock neared 1:00pm when they would hit the waters.
There was snow and ice everywhere. You had to have boots, winter coats, gloves and hats on to watch the polar bear plunge. The polar bears however sported shorts, swimsuits, bare feet, and a few costumes. They have been doing this for so many years they have become immune to the cold water and the cold air.
There were many newcomers this year and they were pumped and ready to go. For those that have never participated before, the water was a shock. For those who do this every year on New Years Day, the temperature of the water was a bit to warm.
If you were a true polar bear, you would not have socks on. The tradition of wearing no socks dates back to the early days when a polar bear was for the toughest people who did not wear layers of clothing including socks. If you are wearing socks, they will know you are a newbie and you will be de-socked so you can be a true polar bear.
Small children and those with health problems would not do well participating in such an activity. Every person is responsible for his or her own safety and parents are responsible for their children.
Now the New Year can begin. The polar bears have landed and marked the start of a new year. Did you join in for the polar bear plunge in Sheboygan or in your area? If you did, please share your experiences.