OK, it's the time of year for all the area stout and hearty to take their annual dip into the Ohio River. Yes, welcome the 2009 Polar Plunge. Ryan Scott Ottney of the Portsmouth Daily Times reports, "The day will begin January 1 at the Blockhouse Bar, located at 1107 Lawson St., in Portsmouth (next to Portsmouth Little Theater), where divers will meet at about 10:30 a.m. for breakfast. Afterwards, they will all get into a caravan with Portsmouth Shriners, and drive to the Court Street Landing along the Ohio River. When the clock hands go up, reaching for noon, divers go down into the cold Ohio River." Anyone, from recommended ages of 8-to-80, is invited to the event.
The obvious question, of course, is "Why?" January and the Ohio River and humans aren't very compatible to most minds; however, a large group of freezing humans loves to perform this stunt. The Polar Bear Club of Scioto County is looking forward to their icy submersion. Sam Simon says, they’re “freezin’ for a reason.” Divers collect pledges ($5-$10) and sponsors to raise money for local charities. The Polar Bear Club has traditionally raised money for local Boy Scouts and Simon will continue that tradition himself this year, but divers this year are free to select their own charities.
So far, about 80 divers have signed up for this year's plunge. And, to assuage the timid, Simon reports not one person has gotten sick from the cold in past dives. He says, "It’s really, truly like a thousand needles hitting you at the same time. It’s exhilarating and gives you an adrenaline rush. It’s exciting. It’s not as bad as you think it is, and you feel really good coming out of that water.” All right, so some could skip the "needles" sensation, but think of the possible rewards of sympathy after the ordeal.
Just a Few Obvious Observations
1. Most divers will probably fill up with a little antifreeze before hitting the icy waters.
2. Bikinis and revealing dress seem to be very popular attire for the most daring.
3. The attraction, as pictured in the photo, draws largely from the young population.
4. The water contaminants, not the cold, would seem to be the most serious risk.
A Few Suggestions
1. Require trained divers, fire department, and EMTs on site for assistance with those who aren’t strong swimmers or for potential accidents.
2. Insist on mandatory waivers of liability that all plungers must read and sign for pre-registration.
3. Have all plungers under 18 submit a waiver signed by a parent or guardian.
4. Encourage all participants to dress in vibrant, creative costumes to create a colorful spectacle.
5. Don't plunge if you suffer from any serious heart or other medical condition.
6. Create teams to compete against each other for the honor of collecting the most contributions and to encourage team themes of dress and cooperation.
7. Have a photographer on hand for individual and team photos -- money goes to charity.
8. Challenge all "tough-people" agencies such as police, fire, and union personnel to compete as teams.
9. Collect contributions to plunge local bosses and special personalities.
10. Possibly broadcast on the site with local media. Songs - "Cold As Ice" Foreigner, "In the Cold, Cold Night" White Stripes, "Cold Turkey" John Lennon, "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out" Bruce Springsteen, etc.
Plungers, have fun and be careful. Wear your protective shoes and don't foolishly endanger yourselves by being "tanked" or venturing too far from shore. Take a good, hot shower and scrub the river water off with some antibacterial soap. Maybe a local school could offer shower facilities? Here's hoping you raise a lot of money for charity. After all, the event is for good causes, and you could live in Canada -- brrrr.