The GONZO Swim Team originated on a cold, blustery day, at the very start of the 1996 Hike to the New Hampshire Presidential Range. BruceM and ChrisH
spotted that little puddle of very chilly, very muddy water called Star Lake, that sits about 4500 ft above sea level, atop Mt. Madison and decided that going for
a dip in the lake was a sure-fire way to commemorate the start of what turned out to be a glorious trip. We had a large hiking group staying at Madison Hut, and
the 'Croo had just finished a small hike after a nice group nap. The fact that everyone else thought that Chris and I were crazy only made it better. GONZOS are
known to do stupid, silly things, and yet, no one else wanted to get in on this. The event had "cachet". We had started what is now affectionately known as the
1st GONZO Splinter Group.
Now, this was not the first time that GONZOS (or other sorts of people) had ventured into chilly water when most people are looking for a warm cup of tea.
BruceM had ventured into the ocean during the original Gaspe Bike Trip and has been known to dunk himself after particularly grueling race legs during Rum
Runner's. As well, BruceM has been dragging his progeny into the beach at Black Rock for the annual Polar bear Swim since 1995.
There is even rumored evidence that GONZOS have been practicing these sort of logic-defying, brain-snapping, cojones-dipping maneuvers since time
immemorial. While we have always been known as a running group, Father Time has forced us to look at activities that cause
less deterioration on the old leather and sinew. Thanks to the ongoing, tireless efforts of the "Sun God", we have expanded the group definition to include
biking and hiking. To say that this has been a hit would be an understatement. The glue that binds a group such as this includes the social interaction that comes
with sharing time together in a variety of circumstances. As a group of runners, we face possible future extinction, but as a groups of sports nuts, we have many
glorious years ahead of us.
So, a Splinter Group is an activity that attracts some small segment of the main group, maybe in the hope of turning the entire group onto this type of sport. One
thing that you can be sure of is this: all GONZO sports are Human-Powered. No fancy gas-powered sports need apply. If it doesn't at least give you a chance for
a negative-calorie day, then don't apply for Splinter Group status. Current candidates include Canoeing, Swimming, Ultra-Anything, Sea-Kayaking,
Para-Sailing and Racing-Any-Gonzo-Sport. Realistically, only the Swimming and Canoeing teams have any sort of status.
GONZO Swim Team membership is based on a few loose rules. You have to be current (ie: status is good for about 1 year) and the water has to be quite cold
and you need to be immersed. For water to be cold, it has to be high up, like 3000ft or better, or the outside temperature needs to be cold, like -10C. Lastly, you
need witnesses, and hopefully a qualified judge. Currently just BruceM and ChrisH are judges, and it doesn't look like this will change anytime soon. Witnesses
would almost have to include a few current Swim team members. No sense diluting the obvious "cache". While a Polar Bear swim may or may not qualify, the
last 2 years, the temperature at Black Rock was -15C, plus windchill, qualification guaranteed. The water at Lakes of the Clouds, above 4000ft qualifies even in
As with many emerging sports, the Swim Team had but a few members for the first few years. Not many people really enjoy nor feel the desire to dip their
privates in water that gives your body an ice-cream headache. Other than BruceM and ChrisH at Star Lake, 1996 also saw EmilyM and SophieM at a very dicey
Polar Bear, and who could forget Wanda at the Lakes of the Clouds. The bathing cap added a nice hysterical touch. Chris and I hadn't actually named the Swim
Club as yet, so these swims qualified after the fact. The next new member had to wait until Gros Morne in 1998. GregV finally learned to "suck it up" they say
and dip his "gladiator" body into the little glacier pond just off the mountain. Rumor has it that the water wasn't all that cold, but luckily, BruceM was there to
verify the entry with a matching dip. Greg followed this up with an ocean swim in Chignecto last year, but lost some points for missing Polar Bear swims the
past 2 years, after stating his intentions to "do the deed".
The 1998 Katahdin Trip proved to be a banner year for the Swim Team. The emergence of the other big Splinter Group, the GONZO Canoe Team, had added
some fresh new blood, and the dishwashing pond just west of Chimney Pond was an obvious choice. The water was cold enough that standing ankle deep to
look for some deep enough water to get immersed was causing serious pain in all present. As little as 10 seconds in the water was enough to force inductees and
the judges alike, out to allow continued blood flow. The first to go in were the blushing twins, Bernie and Ben. Bernie already has kids and Ben,
well let's just day that Mountain Dancer may be the last of that line. Next to dip his stick was Lorenzo, who as you know is now a GONZO-From-Away and he
wanted to upgrade his standing while enough judges/members were around. This sheep-flocking episode finally convinced the Sun God and his "Ticker" to see
how well the electronics stood up to water that actually stops your heart for a second. All in all it was a glorious day and a fair test of everyone's metal (sic). Of
course, BruceM joined everyone as he has for all qualified swims. Is it fair to say that no GONZO can come up with a swim that BruceM would not match???
and why he'll likely be elected "Judge_For _Eternity" should there ever be such an election?
Of course, in 1999, there is the small matter of BruceM just doing support for the Polar Bear, while both EmilyM and SophieM attacked the event with gusto.
Sophie's surprising "get dressed for your life" time of under 30 seconds had everyone in awe and left BruceM no excuses for the "Millennium Dip", even if he
does have to work. Just another reminder of the Swim Team motto: "What have you done lately, compadre?"
The GONZOS are always traveling about, passing by bodies of water that look inviting only to the chosen few. Polar Bear'99 is done, but the Atlantic beckons
as always and the Moon Hikes, Chignecto and Gaspe hikes coming up this year should provide ample opportunity to those who "feel the call".