By Mary O’KEEFE
Liquid that is 42 degrees Fahrenheit may be good for a soda, tall glass of milk or bottle of beer but is not what one would normally consider plunging into for an early morning swim. There are, however, the unusual intrepid souls who think this was a wonderful way to begin the New Year.
About 15 people put on their bathing suits and drove to the Hansen Dam Aquatics Center early on Jan. 1. Representatives from Los Angeles Parks and Recreation had bonfires going and breakfast on the table as those who were participating in the 2016 Polar Bear Plunge at Hansen Dam looked at the pool, asked how cold it was – and jumped in anyway.
It was a little warmer this year than last but only by about two degrees.
“Getting in is the hardest part,” said Jim Murphy from Van Nuys. Murphy understands why some people may think this is a strange way to begin the New Year.
“In doing this I resigned my status as a rational life form,” he joked.
Not only did he feel the plunge was a perfectly abnormal but acceptable New Year event, he even converted one of his friends, Nicole Peterson, to join him in the Polar Plunge. Peterson is a yoga instructor and 2016 was her third year participating in the frigid event. She said her yoga discipline helped her in overcoming the cold water.
“You hold a position [and experience] a lot of discomfort [in yoga],” she said.
Peterson uses mind over matter to complete the lap.
“You just breathe through it,” she added.
For Shain and Diana Duff, also from Van Nuys, this was their first year to plunge.
“I am just going to find the fastest way to get across,” Shain said. “I will do this and then go to work.”
“This is going to be so much fun … watching,” said 7-year-old Chloe Rose Mattan as mom Jennifer Danielle headed for the pool.
Rosalba Gonzales and Venessa Carmody joined in the polar fun for the first time with friend Cynthia Montes who had been part of the event before. The three women traveled from Sherman Oaks.
The swimmers went to the far east end of the large pool and waited for the signal to begin, then jumped in. Some swam, some walked but all rushed as quickly as they could to the end of the pool and straight to the warmth of a waiting bonfire.
“A hot shower” was the first thing Gonzales wanted at the end of the swim. Gonzales, Carmody and Montes seemed energized by the cold and vowed to take the plunge again … after the hot shower of course.
Mattan loved the event.
“I was so excited about taking the plunge,” she said. “But right now it feels like my toes may have broken off.” Despite that, daughters Chloe Rose and Zoey, 9, are thinking about joining mom in the future.
For some the plunge is a tradition, for others it was the first time but all agreed that in the end it was worth it – even if they could no longer feel their toes.