Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Start of 2011

The first clue that something out of the ordinary was up at the beach on Whidbey Island was the long line of cars parked along the road. Hoping to go for a New Year's Day stroll, the innkeeper had given us directions to Double Bluff Beach and as we arrived, I figured she had pointed us to a very well-loved beach and a long-standing New Year's Day tradition. It turned out it was both of those things, but not at all what we expected of the latter. After parking, we walked toward a throng of people, noting an ambulance and hearing upbeat music booming. Then I heard someone say my name; it was Kay, a friend from COGS who was walking with her fiance.

I asked her for enlightenment and she lifted her sweater to reveal a swimsuit. We had stumbled into the Double Bluff Polar Bear Plunge and we were prepared: we had our own accessories... cameras. At a temperature of 35 degrees with sunny skies, this was going to be fun to photograph with high shutter speeds and long lenses, capturing the speed of the exit of swimmers from the water, as well as the assortment of characters. 

Different groups of people had different strategies for preparing to plunge themselves in the 50-degree water. A group of guys were running around shirtless in their shorts and sneakers, a few bathers were changing into their suits on the beach (nothing to look at – think "well-insulated") and Kay and Dave were bundled in layers, protecting their precious body heat until the last moment. High Noon came and with it, a blast from an air-horn and a bit of confusion from the plungers (what, no countdown?). Their moment had come rather unceremoniously but aside from initial confusion, they all knew what to do... strip down and run in.

My focus was on Kay, as supportive as I could be without getting wet, and making sure she made good on her promise to dunk up to her neck – she did! A few shots toward the main crowd, then back at Kay as she was exiting. And what did she say upon her exit, was it celebratory or enlightening? She swore, "Oh Shit!"  And with those words, the new year of 2011 begins.

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