Polar Bears frolic in the North Ski Area

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“No way am I going in that freezing water!”

This is the general feeling of most Canyon Lakers around this time of year. But not for a small group of die-hard water-sport lovers who, on the first weekend of the year, enjoyed (!?!) a dip in the cold 50-ish degree lake. Polar Bear Day is an annual event sponsored by the Canyon Lake Ski Club.

With white-capped mountains in the nearby hills, approximately 20 gutsy individuals put on their swim suits and took the plunge into the chilly lake, according to boat driver Al Van Beenen.

Al noted that there usually are more who brave the cold, but the snow and freezing weather just days earlier may have “scared off” quite a few. The air temperature for those who rode early was a frigid 35 degrees, but warmed up to a comfortable 60 by early afternoon. The water temp, however, remained a hypothermic 49 degrees throughout the day.

Most rode either a waterski or a wakeboard; however, several participants, mostly children, took more than one turn on different types of equipment.

Allison Zander, 11, rode a kneeboard and a wakeboard, while 9-year-old Austin Kahn rode a ski by himself and then rode a wakeboard in a three-way with his father Alex and friend Travis Tate.

Three people – Al Van, Jay Fitzpatrick and Rick Heil – skied on only their bare feet, known as barefooting. Chef Anton Riniti was the only one who rode a hydrofoil, while his brand new wife of only one week, Leslie, took photos.

Meanwhile, on the dock and on shore, those who were not so brave (crazy?) stayed snuggly warm next to the bonfire and sipping hot cocoa while wearing coats, scarves, mittens and beanies.

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