2020 West Seattle Polar Bear Swim plan, and a New Year’s wish, from organizer Mark Ufkes

polar-plunge(2017 photo by Robert Spears)

Lots of questions about whether this is on – and finally we can say yes. Once again, longtime community advocate Mark Ufkes will lead the West Seattle Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day morning. And once again this year, as in years past, his announcement voices political hopes and critiques. Here it is, as received:

West Seattle Polar Bear Swim
January 1, 2020 (The Year of Perfect Vision!)

We enter the water at 10 am sharp !

2020 is finally here. West Seattle’s Alki Beach is the place. Across from Dukes.

We run into the water at 10:00 am sharp, Wednesday, January 1, 2020. Last year we had about 700 swimmers, up from a handful of swimmers when we started this tradition over 15 years ago. Swimmers should bring a towel, good water shoes, and their hopes and dreams for the New Year.

We line up and down Alki beach in a long row, we hold hands with our family and friends (in my case, with my remarkable, beautiful wife Lois), count down from 10, 9, 8, 7 (be sure to wait for the countdown!), …. and at 10:00 sharp we run into Puget Sound screaming as if we are mildly insane. It’s all over in less than a minute, quite painless really, and everyone is happy and smiling afterword. There is something monumental about forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone and willingly jumping into Puget Sound to wash away the complexities of the previous year and invite the unlimited possibilities of the New Year into our lives.

What I want in 2020; well, I recently retired after 12 years as a Scoutmaster where I spent thousands of hours mentoring over 40 boys to complete their Eagle Scout award. I helped these Scouts (my two boys included) to develop a profound appreciation for our natural world and I always stressed several character traits that they need in adulthood.

First, I taught Scouts to never degrade or bully anyone. We can disagree, but everyone deserves respect. And if these Scouts see bullying, they have an obligation to intervene and stop it. Yet President Trump degrades and bullies others every day.

Second, I emphasized the importance of respecting family. Yet President Trump cheated on all three of his wives and bragged about sexually assaulting women. Imagine how his actions disrespected and hurt the self-esteem of these women and his children?

Third, I stressed that Scouts need to live a life of service to others in some form. Doing “a good turn daily”, the Scout Motto, should not be taken lightly. Yet President Trump created a non-profit to make us think that he was serving others, but he used the funds for himself. Trump’s action is really the moral equivalent of shoplifting at Goodwill.

Finally, I reminded these boys that when they turn 18, they must register for the military draft, consider military or other community service to pay America back, and that they should register and then vote. Trump had five deferments to avoid military service, and more important, he repeatedly ridiculed veterans who served honorably (think Senator John McCain and others). And Trump’s Republican operatives are pushing many states to make it harder for every legal citizen, 18 and older, to vote in 2020, because they know that lower voter turnouts help Republicans win.

So, for 2020, all I want is for America to realize that the Presidency of the United States reflects the moral character of our nation and that Donald Trump has proven that he does not deserve this great honor. And for all you outraged Trump supporters, all I can ask is this; “would you want your children to treat people the way Donald Trump treats people?”

Finally, I will be wearing pink again as usual on January 1, until the day that the majority of our Members of Congress are women and/or people of color, since these two groups are the American majority. That, my friends, is the only way we will truly Make America Great Again!

Mark L. Ufkes
Polar Bear Swimmer

Here’s our coverage from last year.

41 Replies to "2020 West Seattle Polar Bear Swim plan, and a New Year's wish, from organizer Mark Ufkes"

  • AdmiralSDV December 23, 2019 (9:26 pm)

    Do people tend to stick around? I am considering making this my first Polar Bear swim, but it seems reallllyyy collllld….

    • WSB December 23, 2019 (9:47 pm)

      If you follow the link to our coverage from last year, there’s video. People tend to run in and run out. But it’s not a race or contest of any kind so you can stay in as short or long as you prefer!

    • Susan Hamilton December 24, 2019 (8:28 am)

      Make sure you have warm dry clothes to put on as soon as you get out of the water, including warm socks. Towel off immediately and get out of your wet suit.  Having a thermos with a warm beverage-no caffeine-will also help the warm up process.

    • Kris December 24, 2019 (9:09 am)

      After I plunge I head straight to Top Pot for a hot coffee and donut! The plunge is so fun! I highly encourage you to try it! And yes, it is cold :)

      • Kathy December 30, 2019 (8:10 pm)

        Top Pot is open New Year’s morning?!?

    • Herongrrrl December 26, 2019 (5:40 pm)

      My pro tip: put your post-plunge clothes in the dryer til they are toasty and wrap them in a towel and/or blanket right before you leave. They’ll retain heat and help you warm up fast when you get out!

    • Mark L Ufkes December 31, 2019 (9:32 am)

      Update for the Polar Bear Swim from Mark L. Ufkes; Good news for the New Years Day West Seattle Polar Bear Swim.  The water temperature will be about 10 degrees warmer than the air at Alki Beach on New Years Day.  I have been doing this swim for almost two decades and it is always better to have the water warmer than the air.  It makes going into the water easier, as you will notice and appreciate the warmer water.  And it will feel better as you get out too.  You’ll have to trust me on this, but it is true.  So, 2020, the Year of Perfect Vision, is a great year to do your first, or your 100th Polar Bear Swim, as long as you are in good health.  Also, thanks to the generous comments, including for reminding new swimmers how to prepare.  Wear good water shoes, have a thick, dry cotton towel waiting for you as you get out of the water, followed by a heavy robe or hooded sweatshirt.  Stocking caps help too, as do wool socks.   But in reality, you will probably not notice the cold too much with all the smiling, laughing, and screaming that will be going on all around you by the huge crowd.  And as spectacular Jeannie always reminds us;  “holding hands with the person next to you as you run into the water makes it all easier”.  And to Kathy who commented last;  thank you for your family service.  I can relate.  I had a Top Secret Security Clearance with the US Agency for International Development and was on one of the first technical assistance teams into the Soviet Union after the break up.  I spent over two years in Moscow and in former Soviet Central Asia working on food stabilization and Democratic Pluralism.   My family was arrested while on a site visit near the Afghan border in Uzbekistan, and one Soviet-era officer pulled out his pistol and pulled the hammer back, as I was holding our one year old baby, when I insisted that he let me call the American Ambassador to resolve the issue.   Kathy, your point is right on;  the Russians are taking full advantage of the Trump Presidency and the chaos he is creating, to weaken and divide America and the West.   Even the spineless Republicans know this is true.  Mark L. UfkesPolar Bear Swimmer and Eagle Scout          

      • Kathy December 31, 2019 (10:56 pm)

        OMG, Mark!!! I just read your reply!!  I’m not Catholic, but I want to exclaim, “Mary,  Joseph, and Jesus!!” I’m gasping at your story!!! My heartiest and most heartfelt thanks for your sacrifice. I assert that if my father hadn’t been cremated ten years ago, he would be rolling over in his grave right now.  Only those who have the tiniest clue about the solid Putin-Trump connection understand the gravest state our country is in right now. (He was retired when the Soviet pilot, Victor Bolenko, escaped to Hokkaido, and the Agency pulled my father out of retirement to debrief him, as someone in the Agency declared, “He’s the only one who can do this the best.” Nope, I’m not a supremely proud daughter at all……) See you tomorrow for my very first polar bear swim……….as I just spent 10 years on the Arabian Peninsula  (Oman) swimming in hot-tub-temperature sea waters!

  • Jort December 23, 2019 (10:33 pm)

    That was a wonderful statement from Mark. 

    • Kathy December 30, 2019 (8:11 pm)

      Yes! I wanted to shout “AMEN!”  :-)

  • Sassafras December 24, 2019 (2:40 am)

    Thank you Mark for your wise words! I completely agree! 

  • REALLY December 24, 2019 (7:01 am)

    Shut up and Swim!

  • West Seattle Hipster December 24, 2019 (7:09 am)

    Looking forward to it! I will be plunging “au natural” this year.

  • Seriously? December 24, 2019 (7:54 am)

    I’ll wait for the movie (✿^‿^)

  • Helpermonkey December 24, 2019 (8:39 am)

    Preach it, Mark! 

  • RJB December 24, 2019 (8:47 am)

    I am going as I love what Mark wrote and to see the West Seattle Hipster!!

  • Craig December 24, 2019 (8:56 am)

    Awesome WS event, I’m looking forward to it; and great statement! (Veteran here) 

  • West Seattle Lurker December 24, 2019 (9:32 am)

    What is with this Trump talk in the plunge newsletter? I thought this was about taking a dip in the cold water. 

  • Bill of Outer Magnolia December 24, 2019 (10:02 am)

    MAGA ! Make Antartica Great Again !!

  • WSRes December 24, 2019 (11:41 am)

    This event appears to have morphed over time from a cool opportunity for our community to gather with our individual hopes and prayers, which in my experience tends to reveal how we’re actually more alike than not, to a purely political one that is just another event driving a wedge between us. 

    • Gene December 24, 2019 (1:11 pm)

      Oh baloney-sounds like you need some  Cheering up-Happy Holidays!

    • Manderley December 24, 2019 (2:01 pm)

      I would love to attend but I could do without the politics. In 2017 and 2018, I went to Lincoln Park and ran in the water there.  No politics, just a lot of freezing fun.  We were located at the southern end by the picnic tables/covered fireplaces/restrooms/swingset area.If “WSRES” and “REALLY” want to join me (and others), please spread the word.  Let’s meet at 10:00am.

    • Frog December 25, 2019 (10:20 am)

      I heard that swimming on a cold day is the number one recommended treatment for TDS.  Though the effects apparently last less than a year, so you need another dose badly by the time the next winter rolls around.

  • Mj December 24, 2019 (1:24 pm)

    The Polar Swim was cancelled last year due to polar weather, seams last years weather was exactly what the name of the event implies.  

  • Mj December 24, 2019 (4:24 pm)

    Thank you for the correction, you are correct!

  • Stephanie December 24, 2019 (4:39 pm)

    Well said, uncle!

  • Merry December 24, 2019 (4:52 pm)

    Why do they have to ruin this and make it political – disgusting!

  • Dale December 24, 2019 (9:15 pm)

    I’ve participated in seven of the Polar Bear events at Alki in the last decade.  Always looked forward to it.  Skipped the last one when politics were inserted into the lead-up.  I will skip this one too.  Mark seems to be ramping up his hatred of the current occupant of the White House.  Doesn’t matter to me what opinion anyone has about national politics, but I’ve had enough of the rants that have nothing to do with the celebration of renewal.  I’ll be attending an alternate plunge event.  Nice job ruining this previously fun event for me, Mark.

    • TMBG IN WS December 24, 2019 (10:02 pm)

      This is where the party ends
      I can’t stand here listening to you

      And your racist friend

      I know politics bore you

      But I feel like a hypocrite talking to you

      And your racist friend

      • AJP December 27, 2019 (9:03 pm)

        That song has run through my head so often these last few years. 

    • Manderley December 24, 2019 (10:28 pm)

      Dale,Can you let us know the details on the alternate plunge  event?  I’m interested in attending.  Hoping it’s local and not the one at Matthews Beach because I’m too lazy to drive over there :-)  Thanks.

  • mark December 25, 2019 (7:20 pm)

    make america rake again

  • Crispy Slick December 25, 2019 (8:09 pm)

    The word “Democracy” isn’t written anywhere in the U.S. Constitution or the Bill of Rights, because it’s akin to mob rule.  Take the first amendment for example, it’s designed to protect unpopular speech,  not protect people from the “irreparable” harm an opposing viewpoint might cause them and to preserve the right to peaceable assembly to express grievances with the government, etc.  We actually live in a Constitutional Republic. And the first amendment is only protected by the second.Merry Christmas Friends

    • TMBG IN WS December 26, 2019 (4:51 pm)

      Oh for sure.  A regulated militia is absolutely why I have freedom of speech.

      Those unlucky Canadians, poor Brits, and gagged Scandinavians can only dream of how much more freedom I have.

      YAY GUNS!

      For those with IQs in tandem with Crispy Slick’s, this has been heavy-handed sarcasm.  

  • Francine Keller December 26, 2019 (11:21 am)

    Mark, your statement was very eloquent, honest and truthful.  I’m so proud to be participating again this year in the Annual Alki Plunge.  My plan is to go under water this time (I think)!  Happy New Year!

  • Fan December 29, 2019 (7:17 pm)

    Hi, is this event free? Can anyone participate? Is there rules?

    • WSB December 29, 2019 (7:40 pm)

      Yes, yes, not really.

  • Dean Roberts December 30, 2019 (12:51 pm)

    Looking forward to the plunge! Mark could have kept his overblown thoughts related to politics to himself as there is always a certain direction it points in this area, which is unfortunate. While I don’t always agree with Trump, what Mark is accusing him of can be said for many who have held that position and lesser positions in DC and certainly in our own state. When I think politics I never equate integrity with it, which is sad. Trump just isn’t a politician which rankles the status quo.

  • Kathy December 30, 2019 (8:24 pm)

    I was going to leave politics alone here, but I can’t. I’m 67, grew up in D.C. (when not on 3 other continents) with a supremely honorable diplomat father, a career CIA spy against the Soviet Union, and was steeped in U.S. politics before I knew what they were. This current administration is NOT even close to “what many have done in that and lesser positions.” On more levels than we can count. Period. (Thank you, Mark. If we’re silent, we’re complicit.)

  • James in West Seattle January 1, 2020 (12:29 pm)

    I’m in week 3 of my Wim Hof training and will see you in 2021!   It’s going to be a great year!  

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