JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ohio (WTRF)

An Ohio Valley tradition went forward Sunday.

It’s not one that most people would embrace.

But a group of divers take the polar plunge every New Year’s Day at Friendship Park Lake, and they think it’s invigorating.

Some are recreational divers, others are first responders who are on their local fire department’s dive team.

Most have been trained by Ted Velas.

Some have been doing this New Year’s Day dive for years; for others, it’s new.

All have enthusiasm, and a desire to get in the water.

Velas said it’s a good thing today’s weather is mild, compared to last weekend’s single digits.

“When it’s that cold, the first thing you have to consider is if there’s ice on the water, which stops you unless you have specialized training,” said Velas, owner of T.L. Velas Diving and Equipment. “The other problem is, it’s not in the water, it’s getting in and getting out when it’s that cold. Your equipment will freeze. The water’s above freezing. But the air is so cold that your equipment will freeze when you’re out of the water.”

So in these comparatively balmy conditions, they went in.

“It wasn’t that bad,” said Joe Entringham of Toronto. “A little cold, but it wasn’t that bad.”

Their instructor and their loved ones took pictures and offered moral support.

They say it’s always an adventure.

“You never know what you’re going to find,” said Velas. “You can find anchors, you can find fishing poles, you can find boats and cars. And of course a lot of those gentlemen are firefighters who sometimes need to search for missing items.”

The Jan. 1 dive didn’t turn up any treasure, or anything else.

But it was good practice, and it was tradition—a tradition that dates back 40 years.

Velas says the coldest it’s ever been was 11 below zero, and they did the dive anyway!