If you’re in California you don’t usually start your new year freezing, except if you are a fan of the polar bear plunge. Many of the swims are on New Year’s Day and raise money for charity, but all of them (especially Alaska’s) are guaranteed to take your breath away. Here are several places to take the plunge.
What better way to welcome the next decade than with an invigorating splash in the Pacific? The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum will host the 20th Surf City Splash the morning of Jan. 1.
Tickets cost $20. Participants will earn a Certificate of Success; those who chose not to take the plunge get a Certificate of Sanity. There will be a pancake breakfast as well. “It’s a great way to start the year,” said Lee Love, the event’s founder.
Big Bear Lake
Polar Plunges that raise money for Special Olympics take place throughout the country, including March 7 in Big Bear Lake. You can register as an individual or a team and run into the lake, which is about a two-hour drive east of Los Angeles.
Teams with names such as “Rancho Cucamonga IncredABLES” and “Big Bear Copsicles” are already registered for the upcoming plunge.
Special Olympics elsewhere in California
Thousands also are expected to participate in about a dozen plunges benefiting Special Olympics around the state. Events will take place Feb. 8 in Sacramento; Feb. 29 (fittingly, Leap Day) in San Francisco; March 21 in Santa Cruz; and March 28 in South Lake Tahoe.
About 210 miles up the coast from L.A., the resort town of Cayucos also hosts a New Year’s Day swim. The 40th Carlin Soulé Memorial Polar Bear Dip takes place at noon next to the historic Cayucos Pier.
For the past four decades, people have met on Cayucos Beach, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, to kick off the new year by running into the ocean.
Many participants and spectators dress in costume. At last year’s event, Vikings, flamingos and even an elf showed up.
Contests include Biggest Polar Bear Splash, Oldest Polar Bear and Best Polar Bear Hat. After the plunge, warm up with a hot drink. Participants pay $8 to $45 depending on the amount of swag they want.
If you think California is a bit chilly for a plunge, how about Alaska in mid-January? The 35th Seward Polar Bear Jump is limited to 100 participants who jump into the freezing waters of Resurrection Bay.
Jumpers raise money for the American Cancer Society. This year’s goal is $150,000, about $10,000 more than last year, according to the group’s Facebook page. The 35th event is set for Jan. 18.