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Sunday January 21st, 2018 1:45PM

Annual Polar Bear Plunge rings in 2018 after year off

By Alyson Shields Reporter
  Contact Editor

The annual Polar Bear Plunge at Lake Lanier was back on for 2018 after a year off due to unsafe conditions.

About 40 jumpers took the plunge this year at the Lake Lanier Olympic Venue. The event was hosted by the Lake Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club.

"It's one of the coldest years in recent memory that we've had. The last time we did the Polar Bear (2016) we had a lot of water, which was nice to have. The water's a little low today but it's still doable," said Jim O'Dell, one of the event organizers and the High Performance Coach with the club. "People jump down at the docks and we have a lot of propane heaters to get them warmed up afterwards, as well as warm showers up in the boathouse."

To make the icy cold jump a little more fun, the club awards the best jump and best costume. A backflip, a half tuck and even a no-jump made appearances. In the costume category, masks were popular with a long nosed venetian mask and even a penguin, complete with a tuxedo. 

Several groups took the plunge together, including a set of three friends crossing off an item on their bucket list, and several families. One family had three generations of jumpers, with the littlest one hanging back at the last second to take his own jump into dad's arms.

Each jumper is allowed to take two dives in before heading up to the boat house for a warm shower and bowl of hot chili.

Gainesville City Councilman George Wangemann has been a staple at the Polar Bear Plunge, having jumped in to Lake Lanier for 18 new years. He kicked off the event this year by jumping in first.

"I like the socialization on New Year's Day and seeing friends doing this, meeting back up with friends that have done this for five or 10 years," said the councilman. "I think it's something I still enjoy doing on New Year's Day since there's not a lot to do until you get to the football games in the evening."

Wangemann was one of the brave ones to take two jumps. He said this year's jump was one of the coldest he'd participated in.

"I'd say it's the second coldest, air temperature at least," said Wangemann, adding the water felt about 10 degrees cooler than the projected temperature of 57 degrees.

With AccessWDUN Weather indicating a solid 27 degrees at the noon time event, O'Dell explained the water temperature can be about 30 degrees warmer. Despite that, the light snowfall before the event certainly added to the chill.

"The last time I can remember we had snow, it was '98 or '99 and we actually wound up with two inches during the event, it was snowing really heavily," said O'Dell. "It kind of spit a little bit today but it still harkens back to a few years ago." 

O'Dell said he doesn't think the temperature is the only thing that left attendance numbers a little low - on the years Georgia plays on New Years, O'Dell said they usually have a lower turn out.

  • Associated Categories: Homepage, Local/State News
  • Associated Tags: lake lanier, gainesville, Lake Lanier Olympic Venue, Polar Bear Plunge
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