New Year's Day polar-bear plunges will go on without two founders [Corrected]
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Polar bear dippers rush back out of the chilly waters of Port Angeles Harbor during the 2013 New Year's Day plunge at Hollywood Beach. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

Corrects day of Lake Pleasant plunge to Wednesday, Jan. 1.

NEW YEAR'S DAY celebratory polar-bear plunges into the chilly waters of the North Olympic Peninsula will be short two key people Wednesday.

But the events across the Peninsula will go on, most likely in their brrr-fect fashion to ring in the New Year.

But the founders of two of those events will not be able to join this year's hardy souls in taking the plunge.

Sonja Hirsch, founder of the Lake Pleasant Polar Bear Dip on the West End, and Tom Rose, owner of the Nordland General Store and founder of the Nordland Polar Bear Dip in East Jefferson County, have more important plans.

Hirsch, who is pregnant with a due date of last Saturday, said Monday that she hopes to be cradling her newborn baby — at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle

Those who participate will have to do so without her, she said.

Depending on the baby's arrival, Hirsch's mother, Carin Hirsch, plans to lead the splashing lake entry.

The ninth annual Lake Pleasant Polar Bear Dip will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Lake Pleasant Community Beach County Park.

The park is off U.S. Highway 101 in Beaver, 10 miles north of Forks.

Nordland plunge

Rose will be home recovering from emergency Christmas Eve surgery and will miss the 20th annual incarnation of the Nordland Polar Bear Dip, at 7180 Flagler Road, just off of state Highway 116.

Rose was released from the hospital Sunday, and was home resting Monday, said Nordland clerk John Malcomson.

In his absence, Rose is looking for 20 surrogates to take his place.

Malcomson said he wasn't sure if the 20 had been located yet but is sure there will be a great turnout again.

Participants will take the plunge into Mystery Bay at noon Wednesday, jumping from the dock across from the store.

Malcomson said there hasn't been a theme selected this year, but hospital gowns, in Rose's honor, would be appropriate.

Wet suits are not allowed at the Nordland plunge, Rose has said in earlier years.

One of the more popular of the Peninsula's plunges, the event draws between 70 and 120 people annually.

The record is 187 jumping in on New Year's Day 2000.

The Nordland store offers souvenir towels and hats, and will be serving hot treats to help warm up participants.

“I'll be manning the espresso machine and the hot chocolate,” Malcomson said.

Port Angeles event

More than 100 swimmers — including a few dogs — are expected at Hollywood Beach, where the 26th annual Port Angeles Polar Bear Plunge will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The event typically features a bonfire, and plunge participants bring towels, warm robes and sometimes costumes.

Participants can earn a certificate for a confirmed dunking into the chilly waters of Port Angeles Harbor.

To earn their certificates, swimmers will make a run from the beach, go into the water and return to the beach.

Some Port Angeles “polar bears” have been known to make as many as four trips into the water before making their way to the bonfires to warm up.

Neah Bay events

The 12th annual Neah Bay Polar Bear Plunge will begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday behind the Neah Bay Senior Center, 341 Bay View Ave.

There are post-plunge get-togethers planned for participants, including hot soup and other warming events to get the blood flowing again, said June Williams, organizer of the plunge.


Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsula

Last modified: December 31. 2013 9:24AM
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