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Taking the (polar) plunge

Swimmers brave chilly morning waters

Posted: January 1, 2009 7:38 p.m.
Updated: January 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.

A boy slides into the Santa Clarita Aquatics Center pool Wednesday during the third annual Polar Bear Swim to mark the New Year.

Two dozen brave swimmers made a splash at the third-annual Glacier Slide Polar Bear Swim Thursday.

Swimmers young and old, male and female, ushered in the new year at the Santa Clarita Aquatic Center Thursday morning by taking the long winding plunge down the water slide into unheated water in the center's outdoor pool on Centre Pointe Parkway.

"This year it was crazy," said Douglas Botton, recreation administrator for the city of Santa Clarita.

"This is our biggest showing by far," he said, having watched "polar bear" swimmers take the plunge in each of the two previous years of the event.

This year's event drew almost twice the number of people who turned out in 2007.

Twenty-eight people, including 15 swimmers, took part in the event's first year. The number of participants dropped off last year, sparking concern for organizers.

"We were a little worried about it, but not after this year," Botton said.

"We're hoping it springboards into more and more people taking part."

About two dozen people took the totally submerged plunge into outdoor water recorded at a bone-chilling 49 degrees.

Twice that number cheered their brave friends and family members on.

"There were a lot of little kids this year, 8-, 9- and 10-year-olds. I can't believe their parents let them do it," Botton said jokingly, having taken the plunge himself for the very first time with his 12-year-old daughter, Dakota.

"It was actually kind of fun," she said, and added she's wanted to take part these past two years.

The toughest part of the plunge, she said, was being splashed by the cold pool water as she waited to climb the water slide ladder.

"I just kind of freaked out a little bit," she said about hitting the water and going under. "I'd definitely do it again."

Dakota's father said the "polar bear swimmers" received a lot encouragement from the sidelines.

"It was loud. Some people screamed all the way down the slide and people were screaming for them," Botton said.

Polar bear swim participants were given commemorative limited-edition beanies to take home for having taken the plunge and for having waded through 75 yards of cold water three-and-a-half feet deep.

"That's a good jaunt," Botton said about swimmers making it out of the pool.

"Polar bears" were treated to coffee and hot chocolate in a heated tent pool side, Botton said.

"If anyone had a hangover today that's certainly one way to cure it," he added. "It's a jolt."


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