Greg Traynor’s Fateful Polar Bear Plunge

Greg Traynor loves the outdoors

Greg Traynor loves the outdoors

Editor’s Note: Greg Traynor, his girlfriend and one of his best buddies had decided to get out of the warmth and comfort of the hot tub on his patio on February 20, 1999, and walk down to a lake not far from his home near Wareham, Mass.. He waded out into the waist deep water and dove down to get totally submerged. Then he planned to return to his hot tub with his friends. But when he dove in, he broke his neck. Part 1 of a 5 part series.

“I was pretty athletic my whole life,” says Greg Traynor of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. “In high school, I ran cross country, and had a second degree black belt in karate. In college, I was a varsity fencer for Penn State University and was captain of our fencing squad at a branch campus of Penn State. I also loved hunting and fishing. I’d been a bowhunter since I was 12-years old, and my buddies and I used to bowhunt in several different states every year. After college, I took a job as a senior auditor for Payless ShoeSource, and I was living in New England on Cape Cod. I traveled over the US and Canada auditing stores for Payless. I moved around the country quite a bit. By 31, I had already moved five different times while working for Payless. Life was good. I was successful in my career, and I had a serious girlfriend. I had a great career in front of me, and I was in great physical shape. But all that changed on February 20, 1999.

Greg never had a "why me?" mentality. Instead, he focused on getting better.

Greg never had a “why me?” mentality. Instead, he focused on getting better.

“I was sitting in the hot tub on the deck of my house at Cape Cod with my buddy and my girlfriend. We were talking about how we’d missed the polar bear plunge on New Year’s – a crazy event where, for no good reason at all, in the dead of winter, intelligent people jump into an icy lake just wearing their bathing suits. Usually, you jump in the lake, go underwater, come back up and then jump in a hot tub. I was out of town when the polar bear plunge took place in our area on New Year’s, so we decided to take the plunge at the lake behind my house. There wasn’t any ice on the lake, so I waded in waist deep. I thought I dove out to go under the water, but apparently I dove straight down. I hit my head on the sandy bottom and broke my neck.”

At this point, Greg Traynor was lying in freezing water, a candidate for hypothermia with a broken neck. Life had come crashing down on his head, and he was in a really bad place.

Next: Greg Traynor – Paralyzed But Ready to Get Back as Much Function as Possible

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at


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