Hardy Souls Take The Plunge To Ring In 2013

By Tom Banse

For thousands of people around the Northwest, the way to start the New Year off right is with a dip in frigid water.
 
A so-called "Polar Bear Plunge" - or "swim" or "dip" - is a long time tradition in more than 20 different Northwest cities and towns.
 
Numerous home videos posted online show the shivering anticipation, then a surge of people -- often costumed -- splashing into the water, followed seconds later by a surge in reverse.
 
Why does anyone do this, especially with the water temperature around 47 degrees or colder?  Seattle organizer Janet Wilson says it’s a great way to "wash off the old year" and start fresh.
 
Janet Wilson: "I think they do it because it's wild and crazy and it just really makes you feel like you've celebrated a new year."
 
Vancouver, Canada has cultivated the tradition the longest in the Northwest.  Their polar bear swim dates back to 1920, making this New Year's the 93rd edition.
 
The Seattle Parks Department has one tip: it says fortifying your courage with alcohol is actually a bad idea because it accelerates hypothermia.
 
 
Web extras:
 
YouTube video of 2009/2011 Polar Bear Plunge in Seattle:
 
Coastal Water Temperatures map (NOAA):
http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/dsdt/cwtg/npac_tmap.html
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