Peer pressure and something to write about for an Out and About column struck again.
A few of my relatives like to jump into Stansbury Lake on New Year’s Day in what is known as the Polar Plunge. The fire department cuts a huge hole in the ice, and people — many in costume — jump into the cold water, exit as quickly as possible, scurry back to shore, ask themselves why, and whether they ever want to do it again.
It’s all for a good cause and was started by my nephew-in-law, Darin Arnell, he says, about five years ago. The plunge has turned into something of a festival.
Music blasts over loudspeakers and craziness ensues. People are asked to bring food, clothing and money. The goods and money are distributed to people in need by New Life Christian Fellowship Church in Tooele.
I’ve been in hot water several times and cold water a few times. My late father used to finish his showers with 30 seconds of cold water. “It wakes you up,” he used to say.
After swimming at the old Deseret Gym, I used to take a dip in the ice plunge after a more enjoyable 10 minutes in an extra-hot whirlpool.
I have watched people do the Stansbury Park Polar Plunge about three times and only “sort of” thought about joining them. I think Darin and my nephews, Ryan and Micah, concluded that their old Uncle Mark would always be a spectator for this annual event.
So when I took my Levis off on the shores of frozen Stansbury Lake last New Year’s Day, they could see I was wearing a swim suit. There was a cheer from the group; the old man was going to jump!
As a side note, my nephew Ryan had a few friends with him, who I think barely got out of bed or never had been to bed the night before. They were having a good time and a few of them wore masks.
Ryan said his mask was from Ecuador and was called “Aya Uma” or the “spirit head.”
“It’s a mixture of Catholic and Quechua tradition,” he said.
Ryan actually jumped into the cold lake twice, first with his friends and Micah, and then with me.
A cold plunge definitely wakes you up. A big thank you to the firefighters who were there to help me get out of that frigid hole.
Darin has polar plunged nine times, twice in Chicago and seven times in Stansbury Lake.
He said his wife, Cassie, dared him to jump into Lake Michigan on New Year’s Day in 2009, to prove his manhood.
“I found myself with about 200 other polar bears braving the frigid Midwest weather to jump into Lake Michigan for a badge of stupidity — er, honor,” Darin said.
“I came out adrenaline pumping and feet tingling. I wouldn’t get the feeling back for some time. But I had done it,” he said.
He did it again in Lake Michigan the next year.
“I convinced a few more people to join me,” he said. “I learned the best way to keep your feet from getting too frozen, and it became a fun talking point with friends and coworkers.”
Darin started his own polar plunge in 2013 after he moved to Stansbury Park.
“It was easy to convince my brother, friend, and two brothers-in-law [Micah and Ryan] to join me,” he said. “It was still just for fun as we broke through the frozen ice behind our house. But we did it and had a great time.”
The plunge location moved over to by the Stansbury Park Clubhouse the following year, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Darin said there were 180 jumpers in 2017 and about 170 in 2018.
“I hope it continues, whether I’m around or not, because it brings people together and helps us serve others through our donations,” he said.
Will I do it again next year?
Maybe. I have 289 more days to think about it.