PORT ANGELES — Scores of people looking to get a chilly start to the new year dove into frigid water during polar bear dips across Clallam County on Monday morning.
Among those who took the plunge in Port Angeles’ 30th annual Polar Bear Dip was Trinity Sunshine of Charlotte, N.C., who is in town visiting friends she met while serving in the Coast Guard.
“It felt very chilly, but after the second and third time, I don’t know if I was just numb or excited,” said Sunshine after participating in her first-ever polar bear plunge. “I love it.”
The air was about 40 degrees with a light wind and the water was about 46 degrees.
Sunshine, who retired from the Coast Guard in 2003 after serving for 22 years, said she is no stranger to cold water. She had been stationed in Alaska for a few years.
“Typically we were dressed a little better for the weather,” she said, laughing. She appreciated seeing the community get together for the annual tradition and wished everyone a wonderful and prosperous 2018.
“It’s a beautiful start to the year,” she said.
Sunshine was just one of about 150 people who took a dip into the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Hollywood Beach. Organizers said it was the best attended Polar Bear Dip in the event’s history.
“The place was packed,” said Dan Welden, one of the founders of the event, adding that there were even more people in the crowd watching. “It was a good day for the Polar Bear Dip and a good day for hospice.”
It’s the sixth consecutive year that the dip serves as a fundraiser for Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County. He said funds had yet to be counted, but there was already “over $2,000 to begin with,” he said. “It’s going to be well over that.”
Last year the fundraiser raised “just short of $2,000,” he said.
This 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.
Rich DeCou, who participated in the dip, said it’s always amazing seeing the camaraderie displayed each year at the event.
“There’s a lot of people that participate that come together to make this an event that is worthwhile and great for the community,” he said.
Swain’s General Store offered 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, offered a New Year’s Day brunch coupon with 10 percent of proceeds donated to Volunteer Hospice.
DeCou called the swim “one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have,” he said. “It’s cold, it’s frigid and when you come out you are freezing, but you quickly warm with the company around you and the people you get to enjoy it with.”
While DeCou, Sunshine and 150 others participated in Port Angeles, more than a dozen people took a plunge into Lake Pleasant.
Carin Hirsch, whose daughter is credited with starting the tradition, regretted not going into the water, she said after the plunge.
She rang the bell marking the beginning of the plunge and watched as others went in.
“I do miss it though,” she said. “I would do it then I would come home, take a hot shower, and I would have all the energy in the world.”
Hirsch said she had decided that participating in the swim for 10 years would be enough and that if she started again, she doesn’t know when she’d stop.
“I was thinking, man, I should have jumped in,” she said. “I almost did it this year, but when would I stop.”
Polar bear plunges were also scheduled in Neah Bay and Nordland on Monday.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].