Local Polar Bear Swim attracts diverse group

  • Published
  • By James Baker
  • Skywrighter staff
Nine people from Wright-Patterson AFB along with 18 other participants braved the frigid waters Jan. 1 on the 38 degree morning of the fourth annual Polar Bear swim.

With snow falling, they celebrated the unusual beginning of the New Year at Caesar Creek.

The diverse group associated with the swim consisted of three father-son/daughter combinations, five U.S. Air Force Academy graduates and cadets, one Navy midshipmen, five pairs of siblings and two pastors. They ranged in age from 13 to 50 years old.

It was a family affair for Air Force Materiel Command's Steve Robinson. His son, Doug, and daughter, Lindsey, an Air Force Academy cadet, all braved the cold waters.

The eldest "polar bear" said it was his first swim and was something he wanted to do once to see what it was like to be a polar bear.

"It was quite a unique experience with physical sensations I have never felt before," said Steve Robinson. "I felt a warm tingling all over after the first five to 10 minutes I was out of the water."

Timothy Kwast, an electronic warfare engineer with the F-15 Systems Group, entered the water away from the shore and everyone else. He said he immediately regretted that decision.

"I turned to scramble back to shore, which took a good 20 seconds, but it felt like a good minute," he said. "I held my breath the whole time since breathing wasn't happening due to the shock of the cold."

Participants must submerge themselves completely in the water to earn the "polar bear" designation.

"I recommend this event for all those who have fallen asleep in life and need something to give them a start," said Kwast. "If you are into adrenaline rushes, this is the event for you. I'd do it again in a heart beat."

The event has attracted 60 participants since its inception, with numbers increasing every year. The number of participants nearly doubled this time from last year's total of 15.

Running enthusiast Jeff Kuzma said he decided he would initiate himself into the club after some encouragement from friends. He said the worst part was waiting to begin the swim while wearing only trunks.

"(The swim) was a chance to do something unusual, perhaps a little crazy, and memorable to usher in the New Year," said Kuzma, an imaging and targeting flight commander. "I plan to make this a tradition wherever I live to celebrate the new year and a fresh beginning."

The rest of the "polar bears" included Paul Ross, Greg Saunders, Ken Barker, Mike Hamilton, Jordan Mohler, Sam, Jim and Eric Conkel, John Grady, John Mohler, David Faile, James Rodriguez, Randy Bosworth, David Eustace, John Carroll, Joey Turner, Glen Jones, Jim Henderson, Brad Kayata, Jason Boudi, Wayne Kayata and Mark Kwast.
If you are interested in being a future "polar bear," send an e-mail to polarbearsswim@sbcglobal.net.