Olalla’s Polar Bear Plunge

While some folks will start the New Year with a cup of strong coffee and a football game, dozens of intrepid souls will gather to jump from the Olalla Creek bridge into the icy waters below.

They call themselves “Polar Bears.”

It’s a decades-long tradition New Year’s Day tradition. Although the origins of the Polar Bear jump have become hazy, old timers remember that it was started by John Robbecke and a couple of other undaunted — some say crazy — locals. Robbecke was the longtime owner of Al’s Store, now Olalla Bay Market. Way back when.

The jump officially begins with a cannon shot at noon on Jan. 1, but many people take their first plunge earlier and do multiple jumps.

Costumes and refreshments

Some jumpers wear costumes. Some jump to clear their heads of New Year’s Eve over-indulgence. Others do it on a dare. Still others have made the leap every New Year’s Day for years and think it would be bad luck to miss it.

Traditionally, every jumper is entitled to an official “Olalla Polar Bear” certificate, suitable for framing. And specially designed sweatshirts are sometimes available for purchase.

Gregg and Claudia Olsen, owners of the Olalla Bay Market and Landing, kindly provide free hot cider to all who need a warm-up. This year Harbor Haute Dogs was also selling gourmet franks in the market parking lot.

Read the rest of this article on GigHarborNow.org