Grils jumping into very cold water

Seward Polar Bear Jump
Photo credit: American Cancer Society

Bill walked out onto the floating slab of wood he called a wharf. I stood behind him, waiting my turn and trying to look as if my costume kept me perfectly warm. I smiled and jumped around a bit, hoping to look like an athlete warming up before an important event instead of a middle-aged businessman with couch-potato tendencies in a cheap viking suit on Halloween. The wharf next to us sported an attractive young woman clad only in a bikini. My mind wandered between appreciation and repulsion, distracting me from the unwelcome breeze in the frigid air. Her figure flattered the skimpy fabric rather than the other way around, but the purplish hue of her skin seemed more alien than human and sadly lacked the Hollywood glitz of her Star Trek compatriots. I watched with a mixture of regret and pity as her naturally bouncy form bounced itself off the wharf and out of my line of vision. I turned my attention back to my team.

Bill stood at the very edge of the floating slab of wood, waving and smiling like an ape who suddenly discovered the concept of fame while his wife and kids hooted from across the water. I pulled my smile tighter in an attempt to hide the chattering of my teeth and considered pushing him in. It seemed a suitable revenge for talking me into participating in this nut-job’s idea of a good time. Just in the moment I decided not to push him, he jumped in of his own volition. Ice cold water splashed out in a wide circle as his bulk forced the liquid out of its way, spraying me just enough to send chills up and down my spine as my nervous system tried to remind my numb fingers of its existence. The crowd clapped, whistled, hollered, and generally made a nuisance of itself to anyone with a fondness for quiet weekend afternoons spent reading a book rather than engaging in potentially life threatening charity events.

My turn.

I bounced and hopped toward the edge of the wharf. To my left, Bill doggy-paddled back to the pier, huffing and puffing and looking altogether too happy for someone who just launched himself into Alaskan waters in the middle of winter. Around the wharf, three androgynous figures in wet suits and snorkel masks slowly tread water and waited for me to jump. Some female voice shouted my name. I forced my smile wider and waved in the general direction of the moniker. I hopped about, trying once again to look like a professional wacko as I avoided the plunge as long as possible. The wet-suits saw through the charade and reassured me they intended to save me from drowning. Their unsought encouragement echoed among the other crazies lined up on the pier. I took a deep breath, shut my eyes, and jumped.

Read more about the Seward Polar Bear Jump Off at