Hundreds of people tossed aside sensible things like jackets and hats for an invigorating dip in the nearly freezing water of Lake Padden on New Year’s Day.
This year’s Padden Polar Dip was not for the faint of heart, as this week’s cold snap left thin sheets of ice on parts of the lake’s edge when the event kicked off at noon. Aiden Larson, 6, appeared to be helping make his mom Juliana’s dip a little easier by carefully removing some of the chunks of ice on the water’s edge and placing it on the nearby grass in the final 30 minutes before they took the plunge.
Aiden’s dad Andy watched his son’s project while shaking his head but wearing a smile. Andy was also left in charge of the bag of warm extra clothes that would be needed after the plunge was over while his wife and their daughter, Charla, completed the pre-plunge run around the lake.
“I don’t know what possessed her,” Andy Larson said with a laugh, adding that Juliana isn’t really a fan of the cold. “I guess it was on her bucket list.”
Juliana Larson said she was looking for upcoming local running races online a few weeks ago and came across the Lake Padden event. After taking the dip, she said she could barely feel her legs, but it was a lot of fun.
“There was a lot of camaraderie out there (in the water),” she said. “Now I feel like I can do anything.”
Whatcom County’s newest Superior Court judge, Raquel Montoya-Lewis, also took the plunge. A year ago she offhandedly mentioned to her family that she would like to participate, and her daughter held her to that remark, as well as participated. Montoya-Lewis was appointed to the judge position in December, with her term beginning this month.
“I didn’t think she would remember me saying it,” said Montoya-Lewis, adding that it was totally worth it after she got out of the lake.
As one might expect, squeals of surprised filled the air as people poured into the lake at noon, but dozens people remained in the water for several minutes. Prior to the dip, it was announced that the lake temperature was 36 degrees Fahrenheit and that this was merely a dip, so no swimming would be allowed. Most of the plungers didn’t let the water go above their waists.
The Bellingham Parks and Recreation Department hosted the event, providing snacks, patio heaters and warm showers for those who participated. Birch Bay also held its annual Polar Bear Plunge, which was organized by the Birch Bay Chamber of Commerce.