On a cloudy, cold Saturday morning perfect for curling up by a nice fire, 46 local residents decided instead to go swimming.
Outdoors. In 29-degree water.
Dressed in all manner of colorful clothes and costumes — including a leprechaun and a bearded strongman in a tutu — they took turns jumping into the frigid waters at Waco’s Hawaiian Falls Waterpark.
The event was the fourth annual Polar Plunge, a fundraiser benefiting Special Olympics Texas.
Participants this year raised $7,000 in pledges for the pleasure of experiencing brain-numbing cold that generated squeals of shock and, apparently, fun.
“We’re adults who like to keep on doing things they did in high school,” said Tori Uceda, one of 11 Texas Department of Public Safety employees known as the Heart of Texas Chargers who took part in the event.
DPS trooper Jeremy Amis, of Hewitt, said the plunge helped him reach new levels of physical speed.
“That was the fastest I’ve ever cut through the water in my life,” Amis said, “and I still had to help a friend get out.”
Polar Plungers jumped in the 6-foot-6-inch-deep end of a pool at the park that isn’t drained for winter.
They quickly swam a few feet to the side and hurried out, but many still said they were numb as they hustled to get warm blankets.
Michael Tran, president of the Baylor Special Olympics support group, said he signed up because he regretted missing out last year.
“It looked like so much fun,” he said.
One participant Saturday knew exactly what was coming before he hit the water.
Richard Ayliff, of Mart, said he took plunges in ice-covered Lake Superior before moving to Central Texas four years ago.
“I heard about this . . . and thought it sounded like fun, and a good chance to support the Special Olympics,” he said.
As those around him shivered and stomped Saturday, Ayliff appeared as warm and composed after the swim as he did when he arrived.
The Polar Plunge has grown each year, water park manager Jim Patterson said, with this year’s turnout of nearly four dozen participants easily topping last year’s 28.
“This is something we love to do,” Patterson said. “We’re a Christian-based company, and we look for ways to give back to the communities we serve.”