The Polar Bear Challenge

A few days ago, I arrived home to find my 17-year-old son in a swimsuit waiting for two friends to arrive. One was coming to film, the other was coming to join my son in a dunk in the water.

Not just dumb teenage behavior! The two had been “challenged” by other friends to do this, and those friends had already done the dunk. My son got to pick his own two people to challenge, and so it goes.

Since then, I’ve seen at least four pairs of swimsuit-clad young people desperately searching for open water. Generally there’s another person with a video camera, because as you know, if it isn’t filmed and posted on social media, well it didn’t really happen. I’ve seen them on Park Point near the S-Curve, and just today at the Cribs off the Lakewalk.

If everyone who does this challenges two more people to do it, well watch out because the challenge is coming to you.

Anyone else seen or experienced this?



about 9 years ago

Corps is well aware:

US Army Corps of Engineers Detroit District May 2 Press Release Ship canal not meant for swimming, pier not meant for jumping DETROIT - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Detroit District would like to reiterate the dangers of jumping off Corps piers, breakwaters and harbors and caution against anyone thinking about jumping into the icy waters. Yesterday afternoon a Corps employee stopped a college aged student from jumping off the Duluth piers into the freezing water of the Duluth Ship Canal, in Duluth, Minn. She said, she was taking the 'Cold Water Challenge for Cancer,' a social media challenge to raise breast cancer awareness. The Corps employee from the Duluth Vessel Yard was working on the concrete replacement project on the visitor center ramp when he happened to look up and see her on top of the wall, ready to jump. He may have saved her life when he called out to her and convinced her not to jump by explaining the "mammalian diving reflex" or what is also called the "gasp reflex," when the shock of the cold water causes the person jumping to take water into their lungs. According to scientists, because of the reflex, humans "drown" when the automatic reflex to breathe forces us to inhale water into our lungs; suffocation, unconsciousness, and death follow. In addition to the dangers of the cold water it is often against local ordinances to jump from the piers at Corps projects or swim in the federal navigational channel. Many projects have hidden dangers including underwater cables, large rocks, strong currents, and undertows that have killed many unsuspecting divers and swimmers. The water depth at the location of the preempted jump is approximately 30 feet where strong currents both inbound and outbound are often present. The Corps emphasizes that the construction of piers, breakwaters and harbors is to tame wave action and provide shelter for vessels. Recreational use is not advised or intended.


about 9 years ago

I always thought jumping off the pier into the icy lake would be an efficient suicide method.  

I did find one video on YouTube of this challenge. It's particularly entertaining since the kid does a cannonball into what looks like ten inches of water.

I would like to officially announce my own viral campaign: Smoke a Cigarette for Hypothermia Challenge.

JP Rennquist

about 9 years ago

I was at Chester Bowl last Tuesday with my littlest kids and we saw some late teens, early 20s young women who jumped into Chester Creek.  The obligatory I-phone was there to record the event, but we were far enough away that I couldn't really get the whole purpose of it.  I assumed some kind of challenge, dare or hazing ritual.  

I think things like this are generally awesome, because people are really living life and pushing themselves.  But I am not saying that it is safe to do these things and I don't know if I want my own young people pushing these boundaries.  As it was I did talk to my 5 yr old son about all of the potential dangers of a stunt like this, too.  In addition to being chilly, the current was very fast, rocks could have been icy ... It could have gone pretty far wrong.  Some things that these people did right was to get in and out quickly, to have dry items nearby to put on and most importantly, there was a pack of about 5 of them only two or three actually jumped in and thay did it by going in one at a time.  Theoretically that leaves one or two people to respond, and one or two to get help if it starts to go bad.  

These adventurers were about 30 yards from us so I didn't know exactly what was happening, I thought about maybe getting some pictures or video of my own to share here on PDD because I thought it was interesting.  But I figured a middle aged man with two small children taking pictures of teen girls jumping into a frigid creek would to seem just way too creepy for me, the jumpers and pretty much anyone else so we gave them a very wide berth. I'm pretty sure I made the right call there.

JP Rennquist

about 9 years ago

And thanks for sharing about this Andrew, I hope no one gets hurt following this particular fad, I'm not sure if I made that point strongly enought before.


about 9 years ago

Strib article on the trend: "Law Enforcement Isn't Amused With Popularity of Plunge-and-Pose Stunt"

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