SAN ANTONIO -

Dozens of neighbors took leave of their senses and took the plunge, swimming across the neighborhood's wintry-cold swimming pool Tuesday.

It was the Great Northwest Neighborhood Association's 22nd Annual Polar Bear Swim to ring in a new year.

"At first, it's a shock to your body," said swimmer Darian Hodges. "After that, you try to breathe out, but you can't because your lungs shrink. It's awesome."

It took each swimmer about 20 toe-tingling, lip-numbing seconds to cross the 52-degree water.

"About halfway through it is when you really feel it," said swimmer Lindsey Ramsey. "I had major brain freeze on that one."

For Lilliana Ortega, it was her first time. She stood shivering and trying to thaw her toes with socks and shoes.

"It was really, really cold -- insanely cold," she said. "Wow."

Jack Mengel, who's participated in the polar swim since 1997, had his veteran strategy down cold.

"Just try to do one of those cartoon cross-the-top of the water things," he said.

As for style, it was different strokes for different folks. Joey Womack's style was more vertical bobbing than horizontal freestyle.

"You go as fast as  you can," he said. "As soon as you can touch the floor, touch and just, just (go)."

When their dip in the deep freeze was over, they got a T-shirt, warm towel and hot chocolate.

As for the big question: Why?

Lindsey Ramsey had a simple answer: "Why not?"

For a list of recent stories Marilyn Mortiz has done, click here.