Chris Fowler of Port Angeles, wearing a viking hat, emerges from the chilly waters of Port Angeles Harbor with dozens of other people during the 2015 polar bear plunge in honor of the new year. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Chris Fowler of Port Angeles, wearing a viking hat, emerges from the chilly waters of Port Angeles Harbor with dozens of other people during the 2015 polar bear plunge in honor of the new year. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Polar plunges offer invigorating start to year

PORT ANGELES — The brave, the foolish and the very stout of heart are invited to start the year off by taking a dip in water only a polar bear would love on New Year’s Day.

They call it a polar bear dip or plunge — running in and out of water that is cold and brisk — a hard slap in the head designed to reinforce even the flimsiest of annual New Year’s resolutions.

How cold? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Centers for Environmental Information, the water along the North Olympic Peninsula between the West End and Port Townsend averages 44 to 45 degrees in January.

If you’re among the hardy few, there are plunges and dips scheduled in four North Olympic Peninsula towns:

Port Angeles

A dip in the Strait of Juan de Fuca looks to be another boon for a community resource as organizers prepare for the next Polar Bear Dip, set for 10 a.m. Monday at Hollywood Beach.

It’s the sixth consecutive year that the dip, now in its 30th year overall, serves as a fundraiser for Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County.

The hospice group asks the community to “challenge” one another to raise funds, either via official challenge forms or informal agreements.

The challenger offers a dollar amount for a participant to take the dip, and pays off if the participant makes good. Or, the participant can offer up a donation to avoid taking part in the dip which in past years has seen temperatures around 46 degrees.

Donations are tax-deductible.

Challenge forms can be picked up at the Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County office at 540 E. Eighth St., Port Angeles, at or on the hospice Facebook site.

Volunteers will be on site at 9 a.m. prior to the event with complimentary warm beverages.

Swain’s General Store is offering T-shirts — proclaiming “I did it!” or “I didn’t do it!” — for $15, with proceeds going to fund hospice services.

Red Lion, an event co-sponsor, is offering a New Year’s Day brunch coupon with 10 percent of proceeds donated to Volunteer Hospice.

The Polar Bear Dip started with just three participants from the Olympic Peninsula Runners Club and now boasts hundreds of participants each year, from ages 4 to 85. One founder, Dan Welden, has participated in each dip.

The coming year marks Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County’s 40th year. The organization has 175 volunteers and 10 nurses serving 120 patients as well as others in a grief support program. All services are provided free of charge.

Call Welden at 360- 477-2586 for more information.


The cold waters of Mystery Bay off Marrowstone Island beckon and you must go.

Nordland General Store will once again sponsor its polar bear event around noon Monday, said the store’s Sheila Harwood.

Brave souls are invited to join organizers at the dock across from the landmark store at 7180 Flagler Road.

All are welcome, said Harwood, and there is no fee.

Participants are asked to sign a waiver at the dock before entering the water.

“We’ll have emergency people on hand,” said Harwood, laughing. “But we’ve never needed one.”

Lake Pleasant

The New Year’s Day polar plunge at Lake Pleasant, said organizer Carin Hirsch, is nothing fancy.

There’s no big event. No signups. No fee.

Polar bear plungers will gather at the Lake Pleasant Community Beach, a county park on Lake Pleasant Park Road, about 10 miles north of Forks at 10 a.m. Monday, said Hirsch.

They enter the lake from the beach shoreline and run out — “It’s pretty invigorating,” she said.

The coldest year was a few years ago when participants had to break through a thin layer of ice before taking that heart-stopping plunge.

Sonja Hirsch is credited with starting the Lake Pleasant plunge on New Year’s Day about 10 years ago. Now Carin, her mother, runs things although she admits she no longer takes that cold dip in the lake.

The Lake Pleasant plunge brought out about a dozen stalwarts last year, she said.

Neah Bay

Annual organizer June Williams has set the time of this year’s Neah Bay Polar Bear Plunge for “high noon” Monday in front of the Seniors building at 341 Bayview Ave.

“This is my last year [as organizer],” said Williams. “But health issues and at age 70 — I don’t need to prove anything anymore, especially to myself.”

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