January 1, 2013
Mike Marshall first organized the New Year's Day Polar Plunge a decade ago on the James River.
Every year it grew bigger and bigger, until last year. That's when the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries told Marshall that his group was not allowed in the water unless they were fishing or were in a boat.
It was a new rule, any swimmers had to get a million dollar insurance policy to enter the water.
And that's money Marshall doesn't have.
Last year Mike Marshall was the only one to take a dip, fishing pole in hand so he could follow the rules.
This year, though, Mike was all alone at the river. Looking at the press clippings from plunges past, what used to be a highlight of his year is now a sad day.
Marshall feels like his tradition has been ripped away, unfairly. He says he feels the most sad about the kids who no longer get to participate.
"We've had kids as young as eight, come down and do it, and I was very happy about it."
Marshall says he started the Polar Plunge as a way to check something off his "bucket list", and he was happy to give that opportunity to other people, as well.
He says he would get participants from all over central Virginia, because there was nowhere else for them to take the plunge.
People have suggested that Marshall simply use a stream or a pond. But Marshall says with all the memories on the James River, it just wouldn't be the same.