More than 100 brave chilly waters for dip

Posted: Friday, January 02, 2004

On a cold Thursday afternoon best suited for a hot shower, or perhaps a warm nap, retired orthopedist Len Ceder and his 15-year-old daughter, Eva, dressed in swimsuits and lined up along the shore near the north end of the Auke Village Recreation Area, as they have for the past nine New Year's Days.

The air was a chilly 23 degrees. The water was a brisk 39. The sky was blue and the sun was out.

The Ceders, along with approximately 108 others at the 10th Annual Polar Bear Dip, planned to dash into the frigid bay, dunk themselves and race back to sanctity - the nearest towel.

"I've done this every year," said Eva, a freshman at Juneau-Douglas High School, "but you still have second thoughts."

The misgivings went away at 1 p.m., when a local buglist played "Charge!" the event's traditional call to run, or gingerly amble through rock, into the bay.

At the sound of the horn, Thursday's temperature was three degrees cooler than 26, Juneau's annual average for Jan. 1, according to the National Weather Service. Fortuitously, the north end of the Auke Village Recreation Area is sheltered, and the winds that jarred downtown Thursday afternoon were nonexistent.

"Some people said it was colder, some people said it was warmer," Len said. "I thought it was average, still about freezing."

The Ceders were honored shortly before the bugle call for showing up to all 10 Polar Bear Dips. Eva was 5 when she talked her father into starting the family tradition.

"It just seemed like a good way to start the New Year," Eva said. "It's so much fun. Before you're nervous and cold and then you get in, and it happens so fast."

Event co-organizers Mary Bardone and Bill Platte joined the Ceders, as is the group's tradition. Barbara Greening, the traditional fifth member of their party, was visiting her parents down south and unable to attend.

"We look forward to this with some trepidation every New Year's," Len said. "But, especially when it's sunny like this, it's beautiful."

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