Tropical Transplant Does Polar Bear Plunge

For the past year, I've been living in sub-tropical Okinawa, Japan -- not exactly the proper climate in terms of preparing for a Minnesota winter.

So I took the only logical course of action, throwing myself into the chill full-steam. This means doing the Polar Plunge to benefit Special Olympics at White Bear Lake this Saturday morning.

When I told people my plans, the response was uniform -- "you're crazy" -- save one holdout. My landlady told me that I have to be a third-generation Minnesotan before I try this. In the name of journalism, though, I broke out the underwater housing for my video camera to offer a first-person view of what doing the plunge is like.

The, um, battle cries are unscripted. My own personal Howard Dean moment.

I arrived at the lake early, just as registration was beginning at 9 a.m., so I could photograph the volunteers from local law enforcement cutting a hole in the frozen lake. The quiet registration soon gave way to a throng. There were more than 400 online registrations, and more than 500 people did the plunge overall -- a White Bear Lake record.

The outlandish costumes (one man's top three: the Ghostbusters; Twister; the Wizard of Oz cast) added to the festive atmosphere, and so did some judiciously chosen music playing from outdoor speakers. Strolling down to the jump-off point, I recall thinking "If you're going to freeze to death, you might as well do so to the tune of Rick James' 'Superfreak.'" And then, the water!

Tropical Transplant Does Polar Bear Plunge

I'm a cold, cold man. We also have a photo slideshow with tons of images containing people in costumes far more outlandish than my Hawaiian shirt-and-board-shorts combo. Check out these reaction shots.

The aftermath was a blur of warm water, a quick change in the tent, and Paul Demko laughing maniacally at me. The initial shock of the water was nothing compared to the chill of walking around afterward wet. It's funny how much adrenaline will protect you from an extreme sensation -- and interesting how quick it wears off. I toweled dry, changed clothes, and zipped in to work to post this. With the miracle of Google, I checked the weather.

It was 22 degrees in Okinawa, today, too. Celsius.

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