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A new year, an old friendship and a frigid leap into 2023

Two people in bathing suit jump into water. Tress in the background have dropped their leaves
VPM News reporter Whittney Evans (right) and her friend, Lindsey Franklin, jump into the James River for a New Year's polar plunge. (Photos: Scott Elmquist/VPM News)

For some adventurers, a polar plunge marks the start of a new year. The practice of jumping into near-freezing water is usually part of an annual fundraising event. But for VPM News reporter Whittney Evans and her friend, Lindsey Franklin, it’s a cold-weather ritual they began during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Evans:  They closed the bridge to Texas Beach. That was our spot — a good place where you could jump in and out pretty easily, that's deep enough. We came here for the first time the last time we jumped in, and there was a woman running with her dog. And she stopped and she looked at us and she said, "You're not jumping in that are you?" It was a particularly cold day, and she goes, "I think I know a spot where you can jump in."

Franklin:  Yeah, she made it her personal mission.

Evans: I kind of have the Sunday scares a little bit because we've been off for vacation for so long. This is a great opportunity to sort of give a jolt to my system, so that I can go into the week with a little bit of a fresher perspective.

Franklin: I'm always thinking to the future or to the past. And it just makes you be in the present, just kind of wakes you up — both in a physical and deeply spiritual way.

Evans: It's also just a great time to catch up with a friend. Because every time we get together, it's really early and we're sleepy and haven't had our coffee yet, and we get to just be friends and update each other on our lives. 

Franklin: We've done some where we had to wade in. We thought that we could jump in, but it ended up being much shallower than we thought, and so we waded through ice to get in. It was so terrible, and I never want to do that again. So, jumping is key.

Evans: What usually happens is that we come out here and we waver a little bit for a minute, and then I convince Lindsey, slowly over the course of time, to jump.

Franklin: Whittney always takes me by surprise. It's kind of — it just it feels terrible and then it feels so good. 


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.