Jacksonport’s 25th Annual Polar Bear Plunge

January 1, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the Jacksonport Polar Bear Club Plunge – an event in which hundreds of daredevils celebrate New Year’s Day by charging into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan at high noon.

The latest issue of Door County Living magazine features an interview with Jacksonport Polar Bear Club founder J.R. Jarosh. The excerpts from that interview below give you just a glimpse at the crazy event.

To learn more pick up a copy of Door County Living, visit or better yet, head down to Jacksonport on January 1, 2011 – even if it’s just to watch!

Q: How many people participated in the first plunge?

A: The first annual swim took place on December 26, 1986 – just one swimmer.

Q: How many people participated in last year’s plunge?

A: The 24th annual swim on January 1, 2010 had around 900 swimmers.

Photo by Dan Eggert.

Q: How does one train for it?

A: Like many difficult tasks in life, I feel this is more of a mental challenge than a physical one. I can verify that after 24 swims, it’s still damn cold, but I also know that the smile on my face from doing it lasts a lot longer than the goose bumps do.

Q: Do you have a motto?

A: “I will if you will.” This simple statement has done more to boost our club’s membership numbers than lost bets and New Year’s resolutions combined. It is human nature to wonder how a seemingly insane act can be so much fun to a relatively normal person. As people have asked me questions over the years about the Polar Bear swim, I always enjoy seeing that glimmer in their eye as they turn to their buddy, boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, sibling, child or parent and lay down the gauntlet with a simple “I will if you will.” With the countdown on to the 25th annual swim on January 1, 2011, I would love to see 1,000 swimmers take part. To help make that happen, I’d love to extend to you, the reader of this article, a very heartfelt and personal “I will if you will.”