countdown to New Year's

Published on: 12/29/2012

This Jan. 1st will be my fifth Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan. The predicted single digit temps have me a little concerned, but only a little. Preparation is everything, so I've put together a little list of lessons learned to make a first-timer's plunge safer and more enjoyable.


10) Get in, get out, get dressed. January 1st is always the coldest day of the year (to that point).

9) Get there early. The largest wave enters at noon. Get to Bradford Beach at least an hour early.

8) No drinking before plunging. Not only are there no restrooms, but alcohol will dilate your blood vessels making you feel warm, but putting you at risk of hypothermia. (A nip after the dip is preferable.)

7) Use the buddy system. It helps to have a friend watch you for hypothermia, take pictures, hug you for warmth, hold your jacket... Just make sure to not bring a practical joker who'd run off with your clothes while you're in the water. I've seen it happen. VERY dangerous.

6) Bring a blanket to mark your section of snow and for standing on while dressing. Consider setting up a small tent on the beach. (Wind chills are predicted to be zero on Tuesday!)

5) Wear an insulated suit.  Many swim suits seem to be designed more for sunning rather than running. If you lose feeling in your top half there's a good chance you wouldn't notice when something accidentally slips out.

4) Wear shoes! Your feet are the first thing to go in and the last to leave. Don't risk frostbite by standing barefooted in the snow while waiting to go in during the noon wave.

3) T-shirt or no t-shirt? Doesn't seem to help or hurt, so whatever makes you happy.

2) Don't get out of your suit. If you value your modesty don't attempt getting out of your suit in the middle of a crowded beach full of photographers. Towel off and pull warm clothes right over it.

1) Know where your clothes are! Be aware of where your clothes are at all times. Mark the spot well or place them where they can be rapidly found. When you and hundreds of others are freezing and trying to get dressed it's scary how similar everyone's bags and backpacks look. (As added precaution, have an extra set of clothes in the car.)

There's no shame in not going all the way under, but for full bragging rights...