In January, Bakersfield is finally chilly, with those hot summer months a distant memory. For those in town who could stand for it to get a bit colder, though, this weekend there's a perfectly cool opportunity to fully enjoy these lower temperatures.
The Bakersfield College swim team is holding its first-ever Polar Bear Swim and Dip on Saturday morning, allowing people to enjoy — or endure — the cold and help raise money for the team.
Matt Moon, head coach for the men's and women's swim teams, said the idea came from one of the current swimmers on the team. The school's small pool has had the heating turned off for the winter break and a few of the swimmers have taken to jumping in after morning practices, he said.
"One of the swimmers came up with the idea of offering a polar bear swim to the community after watching some of her fellow teammates challenging each other," Moon said. "We are always looking for ways to keep the swimmers motivated and work with the community, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity."
Participants have two options: a quick dip in the pool before jumping right back out or a 25-yard swim across the pool. Starting at 10 a.m., swimmers will take off every 15 minutes, with dippers jumping in the pool in between.
Unheated, the temperature of the pool will be in the low 50s to high 40s, Moon said. To warm up afterward, participants can enjoy some coffee, cocoa, hot tea and treats (or, better yet, a hot shower on site).
Events like the Polar Bear Swim and Dip have become a popular way to kick off a new year. (McMurtrey Aquatic Center just had its annual Polar Bear Plunge on Tuesday.) While some people might wonder who would be crazy enough to jump in a cold pool on a cold day, others look forward to the adrenaline such an act creates.
"People are looking for a challenge, and there is a rush you get from the cold water, the camaraderie and challenging yourself," Moon said. "It's a great way to start the new year. Our hope is that people will challenge their friends and families to come and participate with them."
Swim team members will be volunteering at the event as well as participating in it. Moon said they were each challenged to get two people to join them.
Moon said the team hopes to raise $1,000 for training equipment from the fundraiser. It would also like for the event to become an annual one.
The Polar Bear Swim and Dip is open to all ages, Moon said. Since the west end of the pool is only 3-and-a-half feet deep, one doesn't even need to be a swimmer to participate.
Whether it's the lure of adventure or the chance to help out student athletes, Moon and the swim team are hoping people will come out for a cool time.
"People should come out to support the program but also to have a great time with their friends and family," Moon said. "We are expecting participants as young as 6 and we have people registered in their 60s."