What you need to know to jump in freezing Lake Minnetonka on New Year's Day
To most people, jumping into Lake Minnetonka on January 1 sounds like a bad dare. To Bill Wenmark, it's a tradition.
Wenmark started the annual New Year's Day dive 24 years ago tomorrow. He's one of just three "Orca"-level divers: People who have made the dive for 20 years. As a seasoned whale, Wenmark has some tips for the guppies, or, first-timers.
First off: Don't worry about cold weather. The water temperature is always about 32 degrees, Wenmark explains, which means that on subzero days, the water feels warm. Most years, it actually steams.
"The most difficult years we've ever had are when the air temperature gets closer to the water temperature, so a 30-degree day," Wenmark says. "It is such a stark coldness."
Second: Look up. To complete the dive, participants must jump in, duck under the buoys to get themselves completely wet, and then cross the 36-foot-long gap of water open in the ice. "They can walk, swim, jump, dive, fly, do whatever they can to get to the other end," says Wenmark. "Or they can look up."
The sides of the swimming hole, he explains, are lined with rescue firemen holding long poles with hooks on the end. Grab on to the hook, and the firemen will pull you across to the other end. No, it's not cheating.
Third: Why? For some people, it's a bucket list item, says Wenmark. For others, it's a challenge. Some plan to do it once and then simply get hooked. "It's a thing out there that's beyond some people's comprehension," says Wenmark. "Like, why do you climb Mt. Everest? Why do I run marathons? People say, they want to go test themselves."
If you want to participate, most of the work will be done for you: Wenmark and his team chainsawed the 36-foot-long by 8-foot-wide hole in the ice today at noon, and dragged the ice out to be carved into sculptures. All you have to do is register and then, tomorrow morning, show up. $25 will get you a breakfast burrito, a cup of coffee, and a frigid dip, with the biggest chunk of the money going to
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