Participants in the 29th annual polar bear plunge in downtown Port Angeles rush into the water at Hollywood Beach on Sunday morning. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)

Participants in the 29th annual polar bear plunge in downtown Port Angeles rush into the water at Hollywood Beach on Sunday morning. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)

Dozens brave frigid air and water in polar plunges across North Olympic Peninsula

PORT ANGELES — Dozens of North Olympic Peninsula residents shocked their way into 2017 by madly rushing into frigid waters Sunday in polar bear plunges in Port Angeles Harbor, Lake Pleasant, Neah Bay and Nordland.

They braved a 32-degree air temperature, 20 mph winds and the wages of a Saturday night snowfall that had crept almost to the water’s edge at Hollywood Beach in Port Angeles, shrugging off the seeming lack of logic — and the 46-degree water — with a collective ho-hum.

“It’s warmer in there than it is out here,” Joyce resident Elaine Price said at Hollywood Beach.

Two weeks shy of her 69th birthday, Price stood in shorts and a shirt among the hundred-or-so souls of similar bravery.

They were about to rush into the water while being observed by roughly the same number of tsk-tsking onlookers.

“I’m in it for the shock value,” event organizer Dan Welden said. “The more the better.”

In Jefferson County, more than 50 people welcomed the new year with a swim in the bay across from the Nordland General Store on Marrowstone Island on Sunday.

At a polar bear swim at Lake Pleasant on Clallam County’s West End, nine people ran headlong into the water, event organizer Carin Hirsch said.

She started the event 11 years ago.

“There was no wind and just a gentle snow,” she said. “It was really pretty, actually.”

And three polar bear swimmers ran into the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Neah Bay, where the dip was scheduled for 10 a.m. on the beach at the senior center off Bayview Avenue.

Organizer June Williams said there might have been some confusion about the starting time.

With Neah Bay-area Verizon cellphone service down for at least 24 hours until 11 a.m. Sunday, some people might have not been able obtain correct information, Williams added.

But, she said, to be clear: It was cold.

“The ground was frozen,” Williams noted.

Participants in Port Angeles who ran into the water three times received a certificate.

By the third time, there were about 50 participants who were in trudging mode as they exited the water.

“Oh my God, it’s cold,” said a girl as she ran by, chasing her friend.

It was Price’s 10th polar bear swim in the event’s 29 years of providing a Jan. 1 wake-up call to New Year’s Eve revelers, something she does annually to honor a friend’s daughter, Dar, who died a decade ago.

“I’m here to do something she does not get to do,” Price said. “It’s all mental. Life is all mental.”

Zany outfits abounded, including a clown costume worn by one woman.

One man’s felt feathers draped over his shoulders.

Another was shirtless but wore a houndstooth suit as he waited to dash into the crashing waves.

Jan Didrickson, a Port Angeles native, wore a suit he had donned for last year’s plunge.

“It’s a great way to start the new year,” Didrickson said as he waited to go in.

“You try not to think about it too much. You just do it.”

Williams walked in up to her waist at Neah Bay.

“At the count of three, I dove in,” she recalled.

“The only requirement is that you go under so you are completely submerged. I swallowed a lot of saltwater.”

Hirsch said she’s taken the plunge at Lake Pleasant for 10 years, but did not on Sunday, thinking that at 59, she was past her polar-bear-swim prime.

“I should have done it,” she said later. “It’s so invigorating.”

________

Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

People braved the icy waters of Lake Pleasant on Sunday morning at the lake’s Clallam County park for a New Year’s Day polar plunge. (Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News)

People braved the icy waters of Lake Pleasant on Sunday morning at the lake’s Clallam County park for a New Year’s Day polar plunge. (Lonnie Archibald/for Peninsula Daily News)

Drew McGinley of Port Angeles receives his polar bear plunge certificate from Rick Oden on Sunday morning. Sunday was McGinley’s 29th consecutive dip. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)

Drew McGinley of Port Angeles receives his polar bear plunge certificate from Rick Oden on Sunday morning. Sunday was McGinley’s 29th consecutive dip. (Dave Logan/for Peninsula Daily News)

Over 50 people welcomed the new year with a swim in the bay across from the general store in Nordland on Sunday. (Alice Baldridge)

Over 50 people welcomed the new year with a swim in the bay across from the general store in Nordland on Sunday. (Alice Baldridge)

Brave people of all ages took on the new year with a swim off Marrowstone Island in the annual polar plunge on Sunday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

Brave people of all ages took on the new year with a swim off Marrowstone Island in the annual polar plunge on Sunday. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

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