Hundreds brave freezing temps for annual Pittsburgh Polar Bear Plunge
Bill Baierl couldn't even feel the cold at first.
That happened only after his whole body clenched, he said.
“I wish I hadn't jumped out so far,” said Baierl, 52, of McCandless, whose 30-second dip in the Monongahela River on Wednesday morning was about 20 seconds longer than he intended. “Everything in your body constricts at once.”
He joined about 750 other swimmers — including some tip-toers — in 38-degree water to brave the Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club's annual New Year's Day jump at the Mon Wharf, buoying turnout from an estimated 500 in 2013. Proceeds from T-shirt sales went to Project Bundle-Up, a Salvation Army campaign to clothe children and the elderly with warm outerwear.
While organizers said social media probably helped draw people out, blue-faced participants offered a range of reasons for their brisk beginning to 2014.
“It's fun, it's an experience, and it helps a great cause,” said Crystal Dering, 20, of Reserve, a third-timer who kept her shoes on for the dip.
Several feet away, Liam Coyne, 26, of Bon Air, said he was in it for “bragging rights.” He took the plunge “just to do it, just to talk about it,” he said.
Mark Neely, who estimated his time in the water at a couple of seconds, said he might try it again next year. He didn't sound convinced.
“It was one of those bucket-list things, just to say I've done it before,” said Neely, 38, of Coraopolis.
Wednesday marked the eighth year that Polar Bear swimmers supported Project Bundle-Up, which hoped to raise about $12,000 through the event. The project supports about 7,200 people in need across Western Pennsylvania, said Emily Bell, a coordinator for the effort.
New Year's Day river swims in Pittsburgh date at least to the late 1920s or early 1930s, said Frank Nelson, 65, of North Huntingdon. The president of the Polar Bear Club, he's been taking the plunge since 1966.
He spent about three minutes in the water on Wednesday.
“This was a short year,” Nelson said. “Usually, it's 20 or 30 minutes until my wife nags me.”
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Security policies limit ‘insider threat’ at airports, TSA says
- Pet chiropractic more popular in Western Pa., but doubts linger
- SWAT incident in Ross ends peacefully
- Pittsburgh police chief finds use-of-force policies ‘quite satisfactory’
- Attorney wants evidence from South Allegheny teacher’s cellphone thrown out
- Police find marijuana grow rooms in Castle Shannon
- Newsmaker: John Carson
- Terror threat doesn’t keep Pittsburgh International travelers down
- Maryland man found with missing Ohio girl in Pittsburgh motel
- Alcosan scolded for lack of clarity in plan for sewage, stormwater overflow
- Suspect in Glassport man’s shooting death put on house arrest