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By on March 27, 2021 in Outdoor Fun with 0 Comments
It’s not water ballet, but it does show a good amount of  esprit de corps: These three adventurous Wild Wenatchee swimmers greeted the cold morning sun at Hydro Park in East Wenatchee.

Yes, say these cold water swimmers, there is joy in wading into 37-degree water

By Susan Lagsdin

In August, when a breeze sweeps across your favorite swimming beach, it’s a little shivery.

In early spring, glacial runoff and blustery wind can make swimming scary cold and would prompt a quick turnaround at the water’s edge for most of us. If we even made it that far.

Fortunately, on this March day the Columbia River at Hydro Park in East Wenatchee was silky-smooth, and the sun was shining. But at 7 a.m. the water temperature was close to 37 degrees and the air temperature 33 degrees. 

Three of the Wild Wenatchee Swimmers, recently and loosely organized and spunky as hell, hit the water and waded in up to their shoulders.

One might ask: Why?

Answers varied but were unfailingly positive: “I’m off my anti-depressants now.” “I feel good for hours afterwards.” “Once you get out, it’s quite exhilarating.” “I feel rejuvenated and empowered.” “I have less muscle and joint pain.” From physical therapy to spiritual centeredness to temporary euphoria, the benefits are intensely personal.

But there’s a distinct social aspect, too. The consistent challenge that invigorates body and soul also creates lively camaraderie among the 10 active members.

“There’s an ironic warmth to this pretty ‘cold’ group,” Jarrod Groenen quipped as he vigorously toweled off about 10 minutes after he initially strode into the water. He used to swim solo, now he appreciates a group for the safety factor. 

Kelly Anderson, her cold-pinked legs still bare, was bundled in a warm jacket for the drive home. She called the group “amazingly welcoming and supportive… I’m a certified dog-paddler, but it doesn’t matter. You do your own thing.”

Eloise Barches strategically wrapped her body in terry and fleece a few steps onto the sand. “It’s good to have a group like this, especially now when there aren’t many opportunities to meet people.” 

Most swimmers she knows joined solo. “There was none of that ‘oh, that sounds like fun. I’ll come too’ from anyone’s close friends.”

Enjoy cold-water swimming (or running, dog paddling, dipping, or standing in the river up to your neck) any way you like; there are few rules beyond safety and good manners, little gear beyond a warm hat, neoprene booties or gloves. Their reasons are varied, but few people walk into almost-freezing water for pure whimsy — it’s too hard. 

These cold-water swimmers aren’t competitive or judgmental, and they don’t brag, but don’t you think they all probably enjoy what Kelly called “a little bad-assery”?

If you’re keen to try out this not-for-everyone sport, check out the Wild Wenatchee Swimmers’ Facebook site set up last October and managed by Charlene Woodward.

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