Jacksonport Polar Bears take the plunge for coldest swim on record

JACKSONPORT, Wis. (WBAY) - Subzero wind chills failed to prevent a bunch of Polar Bears from enjoying an icy plunge into Lake Michigan on New Year's Day.

The Jacksonport Polar Bear Club hosted its annual swim at Lakeside Park. It was the coldest swim since the tradition started 32 years ago in 1986.

Polar Bears donned bikinis and swim trunks and jumped into the icy Great Lake at noon, when the temperature was about 1 degree with a -19 wind chill.

It's the 10th Polar Bear swim for 81-year-old Bob Frey. "You just have to suck it up and go in," he says.

Frey's technique: run as fast as you can.

"The sun is out which helps. If it was really windy, that's not good, so having the sun, helpful, but it'll be cold no doubt about it," Bob told us.

Ray Harrison also took the plunge for a 10th time.

"It takes your breath away when you dive in," Harrison says. "It literally takes your breath away but you come back out you put your clothes back on and within a couple minutes you're warm again."

Those negative wind chills come with some risks. The Jacksonport Fire Department warned hypothermia could set in within a few minutes.

That didn't stop the Polar Bears from running into the icy water. There's a philosophy behind it, according to the Polar Bear Club president.

"Kind of a baptism of sorts. Put the old year behind you and start the year out with a challenge," says J.R. Jarosh. "After overcoming something like this, other obstacles throughout the calendar year don't seem all that difficult."

Door County EMS crews were on hand, but everyone had a safe and fun swim.

The turnout was a little lower this year, likely due to the cold. The swim usually draws 500 to 600 people, but turnout was closer to 300 to 400 people.

Our Cearron Bagenda was there for the swim and captured it on Facebook Live. Click here to watch.

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