January and February are prime time for polar plunging in the Washington area. If you wanted to try it, now is your chance, given that four major events are planned in the coming weeks.
Since there’s been so little snow this year, the water could be downright temperate, compared to the 37-degree waters that I faced when I plunged in 2010. Still, for first-timers, a few words of advice:
Dress warmly before you plunge. Wear sweats over your bathing suit, as well as Uggs, North Face and whatever fleece-lined garment you might have lying around. Experienced plungers know to shed the gear only when it’s time to plunge.
Expect to go numb. If you’ve ever watched a plunge, folks tend to run in, but hobble back to shore. The water is so cold, it will feel like your legs and feet have turned into ice blocks — or more likely, you won’t feel them much at all. Crocs or waterproof shoes will go a long way to protect your feet from the pain of treading over pebbles and larger rocks.
Have a friend on the shore. You’ll be full of adrenaline when you finish the plunge, but it helps to have someone waiting with a blanket, ready to help you get back into your sweats and coat (plus, they can videotape your plunge). After a minute in the water, you’ll want to get back into warm clothes quickly and get a warm drink.
Now, here’s where to try it:
The Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s plunge aims to raise awareness about climate change and money for the cause. Some donors have ponied up $350, but the group says it welcomes anyone to take a dip with the group Jan. 21 at 11 a.m. at the beach at National Harbor to bring attention to the plight of polar bears.(You can always still donate online here.) And check out our list of places to get a hot lunch or hang out at National Harbor afterward.
The big daddy of local plunges is set for Jan. 28 at Sandy Point State Park’s Sandy Point Beach, and it regularly brings out more than 10,000 plungers. To get in the water in this plunge, you’ll have to raise or contribute $50 to the cause, Special Olympics Maryland. Just be sure to bring your donation on the day of the plunge; registration starts at 8 a.m.
While other “plunges” typically feature participants running into the water from a beach, in this “dip” at Lake Anne at the Reston Community Center, the brave jump into waters from a dock two or three at a time. Raise $100 for Camp Sunshine, and you can take part. The event begins Feb. 4 at 1 p.m.
The popular summertime destination Tim’s Rivershore in Dumfries opens its doors to plungers in the winter to raise money for Special Olympics Virginia. The annual plunge is set for Feb. 25, and it will set a would-be plunger back $100 in pledges.