This year I spent my New Years with friends in Bellingham, Washington.
Birch Bay is where the locals meet for their Pacific Ocean plunge.
We arrived a few minutes after the 11am start time.
I prefer my Polar Bear dips at noon.
The strip of oceanfront was crowded with shivering bodies yet we were just getting started ourselves.
Kate inflates this year's Polar Bear accessory — a pair of octopus arms!
My polar buddy Elsa ditches her britches and prepares for the plunge.
I follow suit dressing down to my suit.
An unexpected guest joined us.
Judging from her festive attire, I assumed she was a seasoned veteran of the Polar Bear.
But it turned out this was her first year!
We were happy to have her along.
Off we go!!
If giving a hi-five mid-polar bear is difficult,
giving one while wearing tentacle arms is even harder.
These two have never been so happy being so cold.
I indulge in a second submersion on the way back out.
One thing you can count on with Elsa is that a second plunge is not optional.
Although the Pacific Ocean was slightly warmer than my usual plunge in Chicago's Lake Michigan, walking barefoot over the hard rocks of this beachfront was as painful as crunching over snow and ice back home.
Polar Bear veteran of eight years and counting.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!
Always remember to dry off and warm up your feet!
(especially if you can't feel them)
As we dried off we watched a few other late-comers jump in.
It was amazing how quickly this beach cleared out after the initial 11am plunge.
Back in Chicago, groups of late-comers would linger on the beach for an hour or so.
I didn't buy the t-shirt, but Elsa and I got our photo taken with the Birch Bay Polar Bear mascot!