Orcas rowers take the plunge
June 17, 2008 · Updated 3:18 PM
Neither pouring rain nor heavy wind could keep the Orcas Island Rowing Club from its annual appointment at Cascade Lake.
For the fifth consecutive New Years morning, Orcas High School students, their coaches, as well as a few supportive (and slightly crazy) adults, plunged into the lakes icy waters. While some may have questioned their sanity, there was nothing crazy about the purpose of the annual Polar Bear Plunge, which was to raise money for a boathouse at the south end of the lake.
During the days leading up to the plunge, rowers solicited community members to pledge dollars on the condition that they jump into the lake on New Years Day. Additional money was raised during the plunge by selling T-shirts with a logo designed by rower Carlin Hayworth.
The rowers spruced up for the occasion by dressing as washed up rock stars. Orcas coach Susan Aspinall and the Capdeville boys, Aaron and Nate, drew the most attention, decked out as members of the band KISS.
The highlight of the morning, of course, was the plunge. Approximately 20 rowers and supporters lined up on the beach, counting down the time: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1- before they ran into the water. Some were eager to get into the water; others shivered in dread.
Most managed to stay in the lake for no more than 10 seconds. High school junior Justin Rorabaugh made it the longest, about three minutes.
As soon as the swimmers got out of the water, they raced to a roaring fire in the Cascade Lake shelter, where they huddled while toweling themselves off and drinking hot chocolate.
A boathouse, when constructed, will be used to store the two-, four-, and eight-man shells used by the club, which competes in regattas throughout the Pacific Northwest. Until the work is completed, coaches Mike Reid and Dave Roseberry will have to continue lugging the shells from their homes to the lake on the back of their pickup trucks. This can be quite a chore, considering the fact that practices take place five days a week beginning at 6 a.m.
Unfortunately, it could be more than a year before the boathouse becomes a reality, Aspinall said. She noted that the club is getting close to raising all the money, but she wouldnt predict when construction could start. She also didnt know at press deadline how much money was raised by the Polar Bear Plunge.
Most of the approximately 200 people who attended the event didnt go swimming. They were there to watch the festivities and support the rowers. They were also treated to cookies and hot chocolate served by parents of the rowers in the Cascade Lake shelter.
The overwhelming majority of those who watched the show were islanders, but Aspinall noted that a couple came up from Seattle for the fifth consecutive year even though the pair has no connection to the rowing club.
The Orcas Rowing Club is a non-profit organization that is entirely dependent on private donations for its funding. All three coaches are volunteers.