Brisk bath
Swimmers brave cold temperatures to take year's first dip in Lake Lanier

GAINESVILLE - Jared McArthur is on his way to keeping his resolution of jumping into Lake Lanier every month this year.

The 16-year-old Winder resident joined about 50 people who started the new year by donning a swimsuit and jumping into the chilly lake.

It was McArthur's first time participating in the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club's annual Polar Bear Swim, and the teen and his friend, 15-year-old Zach Robertson of Lawrenceville, took a unique approach by plunging into the water on unicycles.

"If you're going to do it, you've got to do it well," Robertson said of the jump.

McArthur - who took up unicycling because "the pogo stick got easy" - said he made his resolution to add to his list of accomplishments.

As for the water, McArthur said it was "excruciating."

Another first-time jumper, 14-year-old Tanner Easterday of Gainesville, dived in with his friends and enjoyed the experience.

"It's awesome. I'm about to go jump in again," he said, adding, "It's just fun. It feels good. Your skin feels like it's burning."

Suwanee resident Heather Lana, 13, accompanied Easterday on the first jump, but she passed on the second round. This was her second year participating in the Polar Bear Swim.

"It's kind of a searing cold pain for a minute," she said. "It's kind of like little icicles were hitting you."

Lana, a kayaking athlete, said she brought every piece of warm clothing she owns to help her warm up after the jump. Some participants, she said, make the mistake of forgetting to bring dry clothes to change into.

The 11th annual Polar Bear Swim helped raise money for the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club, a nonprofit organization for Olympic flat water canoe and kayak hopefuls. The theme of this year's jump was "low tide," because the drought prevented participants from being able to use the high jumps.