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Polar plunge Texas Style

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

It was for a worthy cause - to raise money for Special Olympics in Texas. They came dressed in swimsuits and T-shirts, prepared to run into the “frigid” waters of the Gulf of Mexico in January.

The recently held event raised approximately $45,000. The funds support more than 2,000 Special Olympics Texas athletes, living in the Gulf Coast area.

That’s great. Four hundred people “weathered” the January conditions at Stewart Beach Park on Galveston island, and endured the “frigid” waters of the Gulf for a worthy cause.

Notice that I put some words in quotation marks. Read on, and you’ll see why.

That’s a lot more money than the Lakeview Polar Bear Club raised last year, when 300 of its members plunged into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan. The difference in participation may be explained by the weather.

Notice that the quote marks are gone, because taking a dip in Lake Michigan in January is really frigid.
Galveston’s event was held when the Texas Gulf Coast temperatures reached into the upper 70s, and the humidity was high. Many of us around here turned on our air conditioners.

Had the Galveston event been held two weeks earlier, when morning temperatures reached into the 20s during our few days of winter, the bathers would have experienced the same conditions as those in Chicago, perhaps even worse. But the Gulf Coast subtropical winter had returned just in time.

“I see some bikinis on the beach,” commented a friend who lives on the island. “It’s always nice to see bikinis on the beach in January.”

I’m not taking anything away from those brave souls because the last thing I’d want to do is take a dip in the Gulf in January. Maybe in July and August, when the waters warm up a bit, to like 85 degrees, but not in January.

The videos I saw showed the participants having fun running into the Gulf and splashing around, a lot different than a few states north of us. The Chicago bathers were really cold and earned their charity contributions the hard way.

I could tell by their faces that Lake Michigan was not an ideal temperature. They were holding their breaths, or maybe trying to breathe. They smiled for the cameras, but the pictures showed that they needed a nice hot cup of cocoa.

The high temperature that day was 49 degrees in Chicago. It was one of the warmer days, but still snow on the ground. I don’t know what the water temperature was, but I’d bet that it was way under that.

I went to a resort in November where the pool was supposed to be heated. But they probably just said that to make the guests feel better, thinking that we’d be just sitting poolside and wouldn’t really venture into the water.

I tried to get used to it and swam around a little, but at this phase of my life, I’d rather plunge into a hot tub. I used to just jump in and minimize the agony.

Congratulations to all the Lake Michigan brave souls who paid $30 each to take the plunge again on Saturday, plus raised money for a good cause. Also, congratulations to the Galveston Island participants, who had enough sense to do it along the Texas Gulf Coast rather than at a beach where it’s really cold.

We need something like this in Brazoria County to raise money for charity. We have lots of beaches, plenty of water and many good causes.

But it needs to be held on a warm day. After all, this is the Texas Gulf Coast.