Cold Water, Warm Hearts: The 35th Annual Plunge

September 4, 2019 Jonny Eberle Comments (0)

Early in the morning on Friday, September 6, YMCA members from around Tacoma will wake early to participate in a longstanding tradition. As dawn breaks over Mt. Rainier, participants will lace up their running shoes, fasten their bike helmets, and drop their stand-up paddleboards into the water to walk, run, bike, or paddle to Owen Beach at Point Defiance.

At 7:30am, between 50 and 100 participants will line up side-by-side on the beach to plunge three times into the chilly waters of Puget Sound (the water temperature is typically a brisk 55 degrees Fahrenheit). The three plunges signify a renewed commitment to strengthening spirit, mind, and body.

Joggers run to Owen Beach for the annual Plunge.

Now in its 35th year, the Plunge was started in 1984 by long-time member and instructor Pete Pilke. Pete led a popular Boot Camp-style group exercise class at the  Morgan Family YMCA and he liked to challenge people to get out of their comfort zones. So, one day he persuaded his class to move their workout to Point Defiance. After some vigorous cardio, they all jumped into the water at Owen Beach.

Not to be outdone, Charlie Davis’ exercise class at the  Tacoma Center YMCA decided to join Pete’s group the following year. However, instead of driving to the beach, they decided to run from downtown — a 6.5-mile run. A tradition was born. Today, members from four branches in the Tacoma area participate in the Plunge each year.

YMCA members plunge into the Puget Sound three times.

“The Plunge is a fun way for all of us to connect, working toward a common goal and experiencing the brisk exhilaration that is the Puget Sound,” says Tacoma Center Y member Blake Bolton, who serves on the Y’s Board of Directors. “More though, it symbolizes the friendship and support that we have for each other as members of the YMCA.”


Join us for the 35th Annual Plunge! Towels and a light breakfast will be provided, along with transportation back to the Y for runners and walkers. Everyone is welcome to participate.

Date | Friday, September 6, 2019
Time | Start times vary:

  • 5:30am - Walking group leaves Tacoma Center YMCA

  • 5:30am - Stand-up paddleboard and kayak group leaves the dock at C.I. Shenanigans. RSVP to Clayton DeNault.

  • 5:45am - Walking group leaves Morgan Family YMCA

  • 6:15am - Bike group leaves Tacoma Center YMCA

  • 6:20am - Jogging group leaves Tacoma Center YMCA

  • 6:25am - 9.5 minute/mile runners leave Morgan Family YMCA

  • 6:30am - Running group leaves Tacoma Center YMCA

  • 6:35am - 8.5 minute/mile runners leave Morgan Family YMCA

  • 7:15am - Cycling group leaves Morgan Family YMCA

  • 7:30am – Warm-Up

  • 7:40am - The Plunge

  • 8:30am - Buses will depart to bring participants back to the Y

YMCA Plunge participants celebrate by taking a selfie at the event.

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