Hundreds brave frigid temps for Waterville's annual 'Polar Bear Plunge'

WATERVILLE, Ohio (13abc Action News) - It's an annual tradition that's not for the faint of heart.

"It just gives me a good, fresh feeling—good start to the new year," said swimmer Wendy Dailey.

For 89 years now the banks of the Maumee in Waterville have come alive on New Year's Day with people taking a quick dip in river's frigid waters.

"This is just something crazy and it's a fun way to start off the new year, and it's a really good tradition," said Molly Good of the Waterville Historical Society.

The city's polar bear plunge is one of the oldest in the country and draws seasoned veterans and newcomers alike.

"Why come out here and do this every year?," asked reporter Michael Bratton. "I guess because my health is still good enough I can do it and it's just more of a challenge to see how much you can endure," said Rick Metzger. "So I love doing it."

Despite temps in the teens and a wind chill advisory for this year's go, brave souls still took the plunge in the river's icy waters.

"It was really cold," said Dailey. "I couldn't get out with the broken ice. I got stuck."

While many come for a refreshing start to the new year, organizers say it also serves as a way to honor the man who started it all--the late Herb Mericle.

"He'd go out into this very spot on the river and he'd do three push-ups and come back in and that was his polar bear plunge," said Good. “He did this jump until he was 94-years-old; he lived to be 102 and he passed away in 2008.”