Matt Stauffer prepares to jump off of the Dash Point pier. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Matt Stauffer prepares to jump off of the Dash Point pier. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Locals take a dip on New Year’s Day

Residents welcome 2019 with a chilly swim in Steel Lake, Puget Sound.

On the morning of Jan. 1, brave souls from the Federal Way area welcomed 2019 with a New Year’s Day swim.

Some attended to spectate or offer support while others stripped down to their swimsuits and launched into chilly waters on Tuesday’s 36 degree morning.

Residents of Northeast Tacoma and Browns Point gathered at Dash Point pier for the community’s annual plunge.

“It’s a great way to set the year and to start things off,” said Mark Hansen, the first to jump that morning. “It’s exhilarating.”

“Shocking,” Matt Stauffer said about the moment one hits the water. “It’s really cold.”

There’s a no-turning-back element to the pier jump compared to other plunges where participants run into the water, he said.

New Year’s Day brought weather much more mild than previous years, but water temperatures hovered between 45 to 47 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass-like water reflected the morning cloud haze and despite peaks of sunshine, onlookers were bundled in coats, beanies and gloves.

While the Hansens and Stauffer swim in the Sound year round, it’s the winter chill that adds an exciting touch to their Puget Sound plunge.

At Steel Lake Park in Federal Way, Ted Colby and a few friends participated in their fifth annual event, named this year as the Frozen Fishy 5K and Polar Dip.

“I started the run about five years ago with a couple friends because we got tired of driving to Tacoma or Seattle and often having to pay when we have a great space right here in Federal Way to run and dip,” Colby said.

It’s a memorable, mellow event for these locals that has yet to gain an official title, he said.

“I think last year was the Chilly Penguin, another year was Fed Way 5K,” he said. “If I ever get motivated enough to try to make it an official event I’ll have to pick a name, but I like the low- key nature.”

Twelve runners and four plungers, including Colby, completed a 5K run course around the area, followed by a jump into Steel Lake. A fire, homemade chili and hot beverages were available to warm up after the frigid swim.

Commonly referred to as a “Polar Bear Plunge,” this nationwide winter tradition of participants entering a body of water, despite the cold temperatures, is a celebration to ring in the New Year. Most plunge events are fundraisers for various causes.

Colby’s cause of choice is March of Diapers, an annual drive to collect and distribute diapers to local nonprofit organizations supporting low-income families with kids.

This year’s pre-event collection at the Polar Dip brought in 888 diapers. Last April, Colby ran along 320th Street in Federal Way in a diaper costume as part of the local fundraiser, collecting 20,500 diapers during the drive.

“This was the first year I opened the invite for participants to donate at the run,” he said.

“There is a gap around diapers in social programs such as Women, Infants, and Children, so it’s a great cause I love supporting.”

He plans to run for a cause again in spring, but for now is enjoying the possibilities 2019 may hold.

“New Year is about a fresh start and writing a new chapter,” Colby said. “Can’t think of a better way to start a new chapter than getting together with friends, getting some exercise, doing something crazy, then eating some awesome food.”


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Annika Hansen takes the plunge at Dash Point. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Annika Hansen takes the plunge at Dash Point. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Annika Hansen, left, Matt Hansen, Mark Hansen and Matt Stauffer dry off and warm up after their New Year’s Day jump. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Annika Hansen, left, Matt Hansen, Mark Hansen and Matt Stauffer dry off and warm up after their New Year’s Day jump. Olivia Sullivan/staff photo

Ted Colby, second from right, founded the Steel Lake event, this year deemed the Frozen Fishy 5K and Polar Dip. Courtesy photo

Ted Colby, second from right, founded the Steel Lake event, this year deemed the Frozen Fishy 5K and Polar Dip. Courtesy photo

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