New Years Day marks the annual Polar Bear Plunge event – Chico Enterprise-Record


CHICO – Saturday morning was freezing cold, but a group of brave people took a dip in the Sycamore Pool in Bidwell Park and swam across for the annual Polar Bear Plunge event.

The plunge has occurred every year since 1980 but did not happen in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 100 people braved the cold and freezing water temperature, while at least 200 people gathered to cheer on their friends or relatives or just to watch the event.

Diver Juan Alvarez said before the dive he was inspired to jump based on a challenge from his family. He was present at the event with his nieces and other members of his family.

  • Brave swimmers take on the freezing water of the Sycamore Pool in Bidwell Park on Saturday, January 1, 2022 during the annual Polar Bear Dive. (Jennie Blevins / Enterprise-Record)

  • Santa himself, aka Mike Williams of Paradise, prepares to take on the icy waters of the Sycamore Pool in Bidwell Park on Saturday, January 1, 2022 in Chico, Calif., During the annual Polar Bear Plunge. (Jennie Blevins / Enterprise-Record)

  • Swimmers take a dip in the freezing waters of the Sycamore Pool for the unofficial Polar Bear Swim on Saturday, January 1, 2022, in Chico, Calif. (Dan Reidel / Enterprise-Record)

  • Courageous swimmers swim in the Sycamore Pool at Bidwell Park on Saturday, January 1, 2022 during the annual Polar Bear Dive. (Jennie Blevins / Enterprise-Record)

“I thought it would be cool to do that,” Alvarez said. “I lived here for a while and never did before. Alvarez lives in Chico and was born in Heaven.

Thunder Shaffer, a construction management student at Chico State, said he was taking the leap “to start the new year off right.”

“This is the right way to start 2022,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer dived in his hometown of Red Bluff, but this was his first time facing the icy water of Sycamore Pool.

“I tried to fake seven injuries before I came here,” Shaffer said.

Paradise’s Santa, also known as Mike Williams, was at the creek to take the plunge. He was dressed in his Santa costume but stripped down just before diving in wearing a red shirt and red shorts.

“We have rebuilt this year,” said Williams. “We need a fresh year.”

Father Christmas has taken the plunge in previous years.

Nathan Garrett dried off after the dive with a towel wrapped around his neck. He attended the event with friends.

“I have coffee and a bathrobe,” Garrett said. “It’s a great participation. It’s good to go through this with a bunch of other people.

Diver Barbara King faced walking to her car after the towel wrapped dive.

“It was cold but fast,” King said of the swim. She has already made the event in Chico. “I wanted to do it because the weather was nice,” King said. “I can tell people I did it. I have the right to brag. If the conditions are good, I will do it again.


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