The pulse of the plunge
Not everyone is willing to jump into the near-freezing waters of the Columbia River in the middle of February — but Jordan Lindahl is not everyone.
The 32-year-old Scappoose man has taken part in the annual Polar Plunge every year for the past decade as a fundraiser for Special Olympics Oregon.
During this year's plunge on Saturday, Feb. 23, Jordan, who has developmental disabilities, will mark his 10th excursion into the typically 40-degree river at Broughton Beach in Portland.
After a decade of braving frigid water, Jordan's tenacity has matured. While family members and other teammates usually rush in chest deep, high-five the lifeguards on duty, and wade back out, Jordan goes all in.
"Half the people always go underwater. And I always go underwater," Jordan said, laughing. "I just like to do that."
His first Polar Plunge was a different story.
"First when I did it, I ran in there for a bit and got to about my knees, and then I turned back and ran out," he recalled
Over the years, Jordan has recruited family and friends to join his team.
"The first year he did it by himself and we went and saw what it was all about and it's just ... there's nothing like it," said Tammy Lindahl, Jordan's mom. "And the next year he formed a team and he's had a team ever since."
Some family members were leery at first. But after seeing how much Jordan enjoyed the experience, many opted to make it part of their annual routine as well.
"If anybody had told me I'd be plunging into the Columbia in February, I would've told them they were out of their minds," Tammy said. "And it's actually the funnest day of the year."
Jordan has joined in athletic events through Special Olympics Oregon for years, and it was through Special Olympics Oregon sports he learned about the Polar Plunge from one of his coaches.
Since that first experience, the family has collectively raised more than $32,000 for the nonprofit, which serves more than 14,000 participants annually who have intellectual disabilities, according the Special Olympics Oregon website. Some of the funds are allocated to the district in which the team resides, the website notes — in this
case, the Columbia County chapter.
During this year's plunge, Jordan will have 24 people on his team, including one of his youngest recruits to date — his 9-year-old cousin.
"I'm excited to have my cousin Kellen because he's the youngest, and I've never had a person like him on the team before," Jordan said.
The team has taken on the moniker "Team Hollywood," a spin on a nickname Jordan adopted for himself — Mr. Hollywood — from one of his celebrity icons, Hulk Hogan. In the 1990s, Hogan, a professional WWE wrestler, took on the ringside name of Hollywood Hogan.
The team this year will wear matching team t-shirts decorated with a golden star reminiscent of those on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
It's customary each year for Jordan's team to take on a new name and theme, including new costumes. One of the most memorable was a jungle theme when the team dressed as wild animals, when Jordan jumped in the river wearing a gorilla mask.
"I plunged in with it. I didn't take it off. I just didn't go under. I didn't want to get it wet," Jordan said.
Special Olympics connection
Jordan's connection to Special Olympics Oregon is strong. He's competed in basketball, bowling and softball with the Columbia County Special Olympics chapter since 1998 and has taken home more than two dozen gold medals from state competitions.
"It makes me feel happy and makes me feel good to see all that I did," Jordan said.
After Jordan graduated from high school in 2006, Special Olympics Oregon provided a continued avenue for athletic competition, as well as a social outlet.
"Well, Special Olympics has been a big part of his life. He did sports when he was in high school, and he was able to participate in football, wrestling and track, so when he got out of high school, it kind of filled a void for him," Tammy said.
Jordan also volunteers at Warren Elementary School during the school year, where he helps in the library and assists with physical education classes. And while Special Olympics Oregon put its 2018 summer and 2019 winter programs on hold for financial reasons, Jordan is setting his focus on other activities for the time being, like dragon boat racing.
It was through his connections with the Polar Plunge that Jordan discovered Portland's dragon boat racing scene and joined a local team about nine years ago.
That was how he met his girlfriend, Ashely Heberholz, who also happened to be involved in the Special Olympics in Beaverton and will be on her own Polar Plunge team this weekend. It will be her second year doing the "Super Plunge," in which participants start on Friday afternoon and jump into the Columbia River once an hour leading up
to the main plunge Saturday morning.
This weekend's Polar Plunge is one of the highlights of the year for Jordan. With a decade of plunges under his belt, he doesn't see any reason to stop anytime soon.
"I'll keep doing it because I'm having fun with it and I'm getting [to meet] a lot of new people this way," Jordan said. "I want to keep doing it."