Annual polar swim held on Koronis

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 3/24/99.

Polar swim The idea came from Chuck Koshiol 15 years ago after a league volleyball match. He told his team he always wanted to try a winter swim in Lake Koronis. Pretty soon, it was March, winter was almost gone, and they decided they had better do it fast.

And an end-of-winter tradition was born.

On Sunday afternoon at the city park on Van's Beach, nine people jumped through a hole in the ice into the icy water below. "It's hard to explain how excruciating cold it is," said Koshiol.

One swimmer later described it as an instant ice cream headache.

The work started at about noon. Using ice augers, ice picks, and shovels with holes, they made a 15' by 15' hole in the ice. They were careful to remove all the slush and floating ice particles.

By 2:30 p.m., Koshiol put a wooden ladder into the water and laid some rugs on the ice.

With the finishing touches complete, Koshiol gave his traditional philosophical toast. On Sunday, he claimed the hole was the Fountain of Youth for which Ponce de Leon had once searched so hard. Taking a polar swim each year, he explained, was one of the things that kept him young.

Taking the plunge this year were: Koshiol, Corey Soine, Jeremy Hoffbeck, Nick Bitber, Shannon Lee, Greg Lee, Dean Stanger, John Dahl, and Darek Bebos.

The record for most swimmers was set in 1993. According to Koshiol, 27 people went swimming that year, including nearly a dozen women.

"Most people only jump in one time and never do it again," said Koshiol.

He has so much fun that he feels he has to jump every year.

The key he said is being mentally prepared and getting warm while making the hole. "That"s all part of the fun," he said. "That's just part of the craziness.

"We could go to the outlet and there's open water," he added. "It takes two hours to make a hole and five minutes later everyone is leaving."

The polar swim was organized by Chuck Koshiol and Dean Stanger.

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