BETHEL ISLAND -- Standing on the dock looking out onto the glassy Delta water, Drew Pador began spinning his wakeskate against the dock with one hand as the rest of his body shivered from the near freezing temperatures early New Year's Day. He was wearing nothing but a life vest, board shorts and pair of canvas Vans.
The 27-year-old Discovery Bay resident's body shook so hard it appeared he had been infused with a huge bottle of jiggle juice, but that didn't stop him from dropping his board into the icy water, grasping hold of the tow rope and signaling he was ready to start. With a splash, he was in the water, and the crowd went wild -- Bethel Island's 33rd annual Frozen Bun Run had begun.
"Drew is 27, and he is about to be 36 -- minus 36, that is," blared announcer Dave Scott at the Rusty Porthole restaurant and marina, drawing instant laughter from the crowd.
As Pador disappeared into the tules, another three brave souls began stripping down for their cold plunge.
"You've got to be nuts to get in that water right now -- and there's nuts out there," said local Ken Rickner. "I live on the other side of the island, and (the water's) freezing."
The crowd on the dock learned firsthand how cold the water was, as Pinole resident Bob Hennessey took his dismount from the back of the boat, spraying every spectator with a wave of water before sinking himself.
Off to the side, four-year Bun Run veteran Katie Russo encouraged newcomers. "As soon as you jump out, you're warm and that's it."
Then again, Russo was going to be dressed up a little more than most of the other registrants -- donning a tutu, angel wings, sash, Mardi Gras beads and a tiara with hopes of winning this year's "Best Costume" category.
Jody Lase, an eight-year Bun Run veteran, left nothing to the imagination. As soon as he was up and moving across the water, he reached behind and swiftly dropped his Speedo to moon the crowd.
"Imagine if he left showing a bun, imagine what he will show on his dismount," Scott, the announcer, chuckled. "Put your hands together for Jody -- look at those frozen buns."
Rusty Porthole owner Rob Brunham said that while each year he gets several dozen people to take the cold plunge, what he found amazing was how many people come out to watch. "Last year, we had about 2,000. ... This year, it's going to be packed."
As for Pador's experience as a first-timer and the prospect of future appearances, he said that when he fell, "it was like being inside of an ice cube -- it was like brain freeze ... absolutely, I'll be back next year."