Polar plunge in Texas town tests health warnings over frigid dip. Here’s how it went

Annika Mijuskovic, 19, celebrated her latest birthday by taking the plunge into Lake Granbury’s 51-degree waters Saturday at the fourth edition of the Goosebump Jump in this historic Texas town an hour drive southwest of Fort Worth.

The day was cold with temperatures in the 20s, but an unfettered sun beamed warmth on scores of people from near and far who bundled up to join or watch hearty souls take the frigid plunge.

“I’m from Serbia,” Mijuskovic told the Star-Telegram. “What’s a better way to celebrate my birthday?”

Holding the hand of her best friend, Jana Cetkovic, 18, the two volleyball players from North Central Texas Academy slid down a 30-foot white and blue inflated slide, splashing into Lake Granbury seconds later.

“I went in four times,” an ebullient Mijuskovic said, as she stepped into a 104-degree hot tub to warm up.

“It was colder than I thought,” she admitted.

Annika Mijuskovic, in red short, steps into a 104-degree hot tub after her plunge into Lake Granbury during Goosebump Jump Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. “It was colder than I thought,” Mijuskovic said.
Annika Mijuskovic, in red short, steps into a 104-degree hot tub after her plunge into Lake Granbury during Goosebump Jump Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. “It was colder than I thought,” Mijuskovic said.
Snow flurries fall on participants of the Goosebump Jump in Granbury, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. Temperatures lakeside was in the 20s and the water temperature was 51-degrees.
Snow flurries fall on participants of the Goosebump Jump in Granbury, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. Temperatures lakeside was in the 20s and the water temperature was 51-degrees.
A snow machine feted costumed participants at Granbury’s fourth annual Goosebump Jump as they walked the blue carpet to the beach. Duncan Kelley, 12, left, and Charlotte Sorrells, 13, came as prom dates.
A snow machine feted costumed participants at Granbury’s fourth annual Goosebump Jump as they walked the blue carpet to the beach. Duncan Kelley, 12, left, and Charlotte Sorrells, 13, came as prom dates.

Many people miscalculate the impact of the cold water. Emergency and medical experts will tell you it’s unhealthy.

“I want to say you could probably be in there, maybe five, six minutes before you become hypothermal,” said Michael Ward, a captain in the Texas Emergency Medical Services. “Well, it kind of puts you into a little bit of a shock.”

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People with heart conditions should not jump in, Ward said. He and his crew were at the event to provide a safety net in case something went wrong.

Of course, the human body has it own built-in defenses for such a shock called the mammalian diving reflex.

“And that’s why you hear these kids that you know, have been submerged in an icy pond for 45 minutes to bring them up, and they’re fine afterwards,” he said by way of an explanation.

Would he take the plunge himself? “Absolutely not,” he replies.

Dozens of hearty souls including Dallas residents Madison Talmage, third from left, and Jake Davis, second from right, ran into cold Lake Granbury for the fourth edition of the Goosebump Jump in Granbury, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.
Dozens of hearty souls including Dallas residents Madison Talmage, third from left, and Jake Davis, second from right, ran into cold Lake Granbury for the fourth edition of the Goosebump Jump in Granbury, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.
The fourth edition of the Goosebump Jump in Granbury, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, included dancing the Hokey Pokey on the sandy shores of City Beach Park.
The fourth edition of the Goosebump Jump in Granbury, Texas, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024, included dancing the Hokey Pokey on the sandy shores of City Beach Park.
Six inches of snow covered a 20-foot by 30-foot of Granbury City Park during the fourth edition of Goosebump Jump Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.
Six inches of snow covered a 20-foot by 30-foot of Granbury City Park during the fourth edition of Goosebump Jump Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024.

A ‘jump at your own risk’ event

Ward watched participants in the plunge as they walked towards the beach from inside a warm SUV parked next to an ambulance that, he said, has everything we need to help people overwhelmed by the cold water.

“First thing I do is get him out of the water,” Ward said.

But before anyone can jump in the cold water, Visit Granbury Director Tammy Dooley said the crew from Texas EMS have to be in place. An engine from the Granbury Volunteer Fire Rescue unit was also idling by to help if needed.

“But it is a jump at your own risk (event),” Dooley said. “But it’s all for a good cause.”

The event challenges local charitable organizations to recruit jumpers in their ranks. By noon Saturday, the leader board showed 10 organizations. The group that brings the most jumpers get all the proceeds from entry fees and donations, Dooley said.

This was the historic town’s winter tourism kickoff event. The town’s mayor, Jim Jarratt, stopped by to lend his support. A couple of council members shook hands with people by the gate.

“We say it’s the coolest event in Granbury. But it’s really the coldest event in Granbury,” Dooley said with a laugh.

Central and North Texas have been hit by three blasts of Arctic air this week. By Sunday night, the region could see freezing rain. But the weather Saturday morning was perfectly suited for the event — sunny but cold with temperatures in the 20s. By noon, it was 31 degrees as jumpers rushed the lake.

A relieved Dooley looked up to a blue sky. Last year’s event was buffeted by heavy winds, “At least the sun is out, and there’s no wind,” she said.

Dance music blared out from the beach pavilion and many danced along on the sand and ice. Awards were handed out for a costume contest. Dooley recognized the farthest place people had come for the event, Serbia, and the oldest participant, 89 years old.

Ken and Sharon Sapp take a selfie in front of an inflated goose before heading to the beach to watch the Goosebump Jump Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. The Sapps said they “moved up” to Granbury five years ago from North Richland Hills. Were either of them jumping in the lake? “Absolutely not,” Ken said.
Ken and Sharon Sapp take a selfie in front of an inflated goose before heading to the beach to watch the Goosebump Jump Saturday, Jan. 20, 2024. The Sapps said they “moved up” to Granbury five years ago from North Richland Hills. Were either of them jumping in the lake? “Absolutely not,” Ken said.

The draw of the polar plunge

So why even do this?

“I’m a polar bear,” a bare-chested Travis Watkins said, his full beard soaking wet from the plunge. “It doesn’t bother me. I’m not even cold.”

Jake Davis and Madison Talmage drove all the way from Dallas to join the Granbury plunge.

“Oh my gosh, it was freezing,” Davis said.

“I was telling him ‘I blacked out a little bit’,” Talmage said.

Then there were others who dropped by for the spectacle without getting in the water.

Ken Sapp and his wife, Sharon, came out to support the Kiwanis. They moved to Granbury five years ago from North Richland Hills in the Metroplex. “We moved up,” Ken said with a big smile.

But was he taking the plunge today? “Absolutely not,” he said.

For the record, there were no emergencies on the water.