Mike Marshall let out a cry Friday as he emerged from Olalla Bay wearing nothing but a pair of pink shorts.
“That hurts in so many places,” the Everett resident said as he waded toward the shore.
It was the 28-year-old’s first time doing the Polar Bear Plunge, an annual tradition in which participants begin the new year with an icy swim.
Hundreds took the plunge Friday in Olalla, where the event has been held annually since 1984.
Never miss a local story.
Within a few minutes of warming up next to a bonfire, Marshall and his companion, Margit Zimsen of Bremerton, were ready to jump again from a low bridge into the 50-degree water.
“There’s a camaraderie of danger faced together,” said Zimsen, who has returned regularly since completing her first Polar Bear Plunge at age 14. “Shared adversity.”
For some, the tradition has become something of a superstition — a necessary step to make sure all goes well in the new year.
Rick Hansen of Tacoma said the one year he didn’t jump, he ended up regretting it.
“I lost my job the year I didn’t do it, so I got superstitious about it,” said Hansen, who said he started taking the plunge 20 years ago.
Some dressed up for the occasion. Hansen jumped into the bay wearing a suit jacket with a message that said, “Happy New Year.”
Chris Barron, 55, hit the water wearing a Batgirl costume. She said she has come to watch others jump for the past 10 years or so, and this time decided she should give it a try.
“It’s time to start living the bucket list,” said Barron, who lives in Olalla. “It’s invigorating.”
Others said they return time and time again to test their limits. Sean Kopperstad of Port Orchard said he jumps in the water several times each New Year’s Day, until it just gets too cold.
“You get bolder every year,” said Kopperstad, 27, after his second plunge of the day. He said he knows he’s had enough when he begins having difficulty moving in the water.
“I try to stop when it gets to that point, before I drown,” he said. “You just get this needle sensation burning your body, and you know.”
Those who went in the water received certificates highlighting their “great fortitude, determination and grit.”
Linda Moore of University Place said she has jumped every year since 1984 as “kind of like a self-baptism.”
“You wash away the old year, and start fresh for the new year,” she said.