Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

First off, apologies for taking some time off from this blog. Second, a warning that my camera lens is jammed and is under repair. So the next few posts will be anachronistic photos from the archives.

And now for a "New York" and "Other Stuff" item, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club.

Ever since I moved to New York in 1999, I have idly threatened to participate in the New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge. The irrational exuberance of jumping into the ocean on January 1st appeals to me on a, well, primitive level. I had never done it before but, buoyed my friend Dave, who responded to my pleas for conspirators via facebook status updates, I did it this year.

It was definitely a great New York activity. Dave and I, and his friend Brian, met on the Q train platform on Friday morning. We allowed ourselves every opportunity to chicken out at the last instant. But when we got to Coney Island and saw the crowds of people, our doubts began to ease.

I mean, if these perfectly sane people can do it, why can't we?

That's Brian and me, below. We're heading up to the boardwalk, where you can see there are throngs of people. A PA system blasted songs intended to pump up our resolve.

Some needed that musical inspiration more than others. Veterans to the plunge were all around, quickly sizing up us newbies, telling us that we're lucky this year, after all it's around 40°, and there's no wind. This plunge, they said, will be easy.

The Polar Bear Club estimates that 800-1000 people participate each year.

The funny thing about an event like this, is that I was running into people left and right. In a crowd that big, I saw a former colleague from the zoo and another colleague with whom I worked at City Planning.

Dave himself was a friend from the zoo and he connected with the aquarium folks who co-sponsor the event. We ran into them moments before the plunge began. We were ushered past the VIP ropes you see below and invited to join them in leading the charge. As soon as we passed those ropes, getting wet was a fait accompli.

At 1pm, we made our way down the aisle, passing dozens of photographers from local new joints. Personally, being photographed running in a bathing suit, after a month of holiday parties, may have been worse than getting in 40° water! ...But that kind of vanity is inconsequential when one has a chance to do something as irrational and exhilarating as the polar bear plunge. It felt amazing. We were in the water for about a minute (ask me five years from now and I'll tell you five minutes). It was bracingly cold, but the icy water seemed to release all kinds of endorphins - a natural high, no doubt. After we got out of the water, the air temp seemed downright balmy. I anticipated that getting dressed would be a painful and rushed activity, but we practically ambled back to the changing rooms on the boardwalk. I've had site visits in snowy weather that were far more unpleasant than this quick dip.

Of course, best of all, there were tee shirts. 'Cause if you don't have a tee shirt documenting it, it practically didn't happen! ;)


J. Reinhardt said...

Fun! I saw the link to your blog on Facebook. I'm going to subscribe in my RSS. Hope to see you up in NYC or down in DC soon! It's been a while.

Sally said...

Wow! great blog. I know you went surfing one past New Years Day, so this is sans wet suit, san boots, gloves hat and so on. Congrats.

How It Grows said...

I can't believe you did that!

Invertir en oro said...

Wow! great blog. I know you went surfing one past New Years Day, so this is sans wet suit, san boots, gloves hat and so on. Congrats.

levitra cialis said...

Nice shots, it sure was a great activity as usual.