Joel Eklof took Point Defiance Park’s Polar Bear Plunge literally.
Polar bear costume, head and all, he jumped feet-first — err, rear paws first — into Tacoma’s Puget Sound waters Sunday afternoon to celebrate the new year.
The 23-year-old recent University of Puget Sound graduate said he couldn’t resist — “It was just too perfect not to do, you know?”
While he was in Commencement Bay, the bear head floated straight to the surface, where an on-site scuba diver had to retrieve it for him.
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“Polar bear fur is meant to be wet,” Eklof said, dripping water as he hiked back toward his ride. “I’m feeling good right now.”
Eklof was far from the only person in costume.
Yannick Kiefert, 53, of Tacoma was dressed up like Santa Claus as he waded into the water with the youngsters before most of the 600 participants jumped off the Point Defiance Marina boat launch.
He wasn’t quite as dressed as Santa Claus by the time he emerged from the water, beard around his neck and red pants falling off, held up only by a safety pin through his swim trunks.
Kiefert is something of a cold-water veteran, having been at all six Point Defiance events and doing many before at the Olalla Polar Plunge.
“I do it to get rid of all the evil spirits from the year before,” he said.
Sally McCoy and Wendy Hinand of Tacoma did the Polar Bear Plunge for a different reason: The mother-daughter duo know they’re not getting younger.
“We needed to do monumental things together,” said Hinand, 51. “Life is short. Why not do the things that normal people wouldn’t do?”
She and McCoy, 73, burst out laughing together the moment Hinand finished her sentence — she meant to say “things people wouldn’t normally do.”
No matter — they kept laughing together in their custom, matching shirts Hinand made Saturday night to commemorate their second dive together.
“I’m freezing, but exhilarated,” McCoy said.
Salvador Cardona of Federal Way came to take the plunge for the first time after having come down the past two years to watch with his mother, Sidney Medina.
So he ended up hopping off the dock with his blue jeans on and came out a little cooler and a lot wetter.
“I forgot my stuff at home but I went for it anyway,” he said. “It was really fun.”
Medina tried to talk Cardona out of it. But as he was drying off in the warming tent, she promised to do it with him next year.
“If he could do it, I could do it,” Medina said.