Dozens brave frigid waters for New Year’s Day polar plunge into Belfast Harbor

Tue, 01/01/2019 - 8:15pm

BELFAST — With temperatures in the 40s, it was mild weather for the 50-plus brave souls who decided to participate in Belfast’s annual polar plunge, which takes place each Jan. 1.

The event, off the Belfast boat launch ramp, began at noon, with a bystander providing a countdown to take off. Though for most their times in the water was brief, several hardier individuals were more relaxed about the minutes spent in the water, with one man taking the time to go for a brief swim.

One participant, Jason Hoffmann, said that although this is his first time participating in a polar plunge in Belfast, he has done two previously in Ocean City, New Jersey.

Hoffmann had a simple tactic for tackling the frigid task at hand: No testing the water. While one man stood with his feet in the water for several minutes before the event, trying to “get used” to the water wasn’t a plan Hoffmann employed. Instead, he went with the quick dip, along with the knowledge that he had a doctor friend in tow should anything go awry.

As for what motivated him to participate, Hoffmann said the fact his friend was doing it was one motivator, “and I’ve done it in the past with my family watching, it’s just something fun to do to ring in the New Year.”

Fellow participant Jake Horton, of Montville, marked his very first polar plunge with this year’s event. Horton, who was holding daughter Braelyn before the plunge, said he wasn’t too nervous.

“I think you can just jump in and jump out, so I’m not going to hang around too long,” he said.

Catching up with Jason Hoffman post-dip, he had this to say of his first trip into a wintery Penobscot Bay:  “It was great. It was invigorating. I was a little nervous after I saw the first group slide in on the ice, but it was a blast. I couldn’t have done it without my team leader [and doctor friend] Ben Mailloux.

Like Jake Horton, today was the first time Mailloux ever participated in a polar plunge.

Mailloux said he was prompted by a co-worker to take the plunge.

“Today is my coworkers birthday and she wanted to do it, so I came and did it with her.”

“It was a little warmer than I thought it would be in the water,” he said. “The air is pretty cold so the water wasn’t bad.”

Erica Thoms can be reached at