WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — Embracing life in Minnesota comes in all forms. But if there was one sport that's more of a bear hug than an embrace, it just might be sawing a hole into a frozen lake to go into it.
"Yep, I'm going to go ahead and do something silly and something crazy, I'm going to dive underneath the ice on purpose to have a little bit of fun and stuff," Mike Curran said.
Curran is a certified ice scuba diver. The operative phrase was, "on purpose," as everyone came out to the Midwest School of Diving's Ice Festival on White Bear Lake to have some fun.
"If you notice, it's not like people come out to the ice every day," Cat Harris said. Harris, from Michigan, was working at one of the booths showcasing diving products but also came out to take a few dives. She's also certified and said she's been looking forward to pushing her gear to the extremes.
"It's a good time, it's always gnarly to see the big chunks of ice come out, the vis (visibility) is normally really really good," Harris said. "It's a cool story to tell people, I get to try out my gear in extreme conditions. and I get to wear my winter stuff!"
The beauty of the north was not one to be overshadowed by the kind of temperatures that may bring feelings of regret.
"I flew in from Muscle Shoals, Alabama," Kenny Wallace said. "This is something different, something that we're not used to. We're warmer weather down there. It does get cold but we don't dive in it."
Begging the question... why?
"Probably just wanting that extra certification or just seeing-- the mystery of it, just doing it," Wallace said. Wallace was one of several people attempting to get their ice diving certifications at the event. Folks who were already certified came out for fun.
"If I want to see like a sleeping trout, or like a beaver hides or like some water fleas-- or just ice, I'm going to go ice diving," Harris said. "It's just another extra thing, another fun thing. I already have the equipment and I'm ready to go."
And that is reason enough to take the plunge and stay down there for 15-20 minutes.
"That water is going to be warmer than it is out here for sure," Curran said.
"[It's] quiet, serene, the light you get from it is just beautiful," Curran's diving partner said. "The diving normally is already isolating as it is, and then now when you have the bubbles on the ice, and the way the sun comes through, it's like nothing else, nothing else at all."
The village that forms around it is just the cherry on top.
"If you prove you've got the chops, which it only takes one to two dives to do, you can hang out with the best of them, and it's been great," Harris said.
The Ice Festival was hosted by the Midwest School of Diving on Jan. 28th on White Bear Lake. The event unofficially broke the world record of the most ice scuba divers at a single event.