The unofficial Kirkland Polar Bear Plunge into Lake Washington from the Marina Park shore at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1 will be the 11th in a row -- but the more important number is 47.
Without a shiver of a doubt -- ah, sliver of a doubt rather -- that’s how cold the lake’s waters will be for the New Year’s Day dip. At least, that’s what King County’s Lake Washington monitoring buoy between the two floating bridges indicated on Thursday -- 47 degrees.
That’s the subsurface news. The upshot is that the water temperature might well be higher than the air temperature. The National Weather Service forecast for Kirkland calls for temperatures to dip to 34 degrees News Year’s Eve, topping out on New Year’s Day at 44, under mostly cloudy skies with a chance of showers.
That is, however, unlikely to deter the dozens of folks who turn out every year for the plunge. The last two years an estimated 300 plungers and watchers have showed up for the revelry. The city of Kirkland once sponsored the event, but quit doing that a few years ago due to budget constraints. So local citizens carry on the tradition.
“Honestly, it is so much fun,” said Rob Butcher, the editor of Kirkland Views -- who last year plunged while wearing a kilt. “There is so much laughter.”
The operators of The Grape Choice wine shop in Lakeshore Plaza next to Marina Park -- City Councilmember Penny Sweet and State Rep. Larry Springer -- will be handing out hot chocolate post-plunge, as is their tradition.
"We'll be there with bells on -- and not swimsuits on," Sweet said with a chuckle.
New Year’s Day dips are a tradition on the lake, and Kirkland’s draws folks from Woodinville and other Eastides cities -- a few of which have their own. In fact, if you’re really hardy and willing to travel, you could possibly do three all on New Year’s Day. Renton’s Polar Bear Plunge is at 11 a.m. at Gene Coulon Park, and Seattle’s is at noon at Matthews Beach.
Plungers are encouraged to wear costumes -- and bring warm beach towels and a change of clothes!