And the verdict of it is? It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It definitely helped that the air temperature was 46 degrees–and I am extremely grateful that God smiled on our stupid asses and waited until this week to send the current deep freeze which we are experiencing on the US east coast–but that said, it’s still no picnic to be standing on a New Jersey beach in nothing but a bathing suit in the middle of Winter.
I woke up on Plunge Day and my nerves immediately started twisting my guts into knots. The first thing that I did was yank my hair into a set of messy pony tails because when you are going to plunge into a cold ocean you really don’t give a fuck about the world seeing you looking like the dirtbag that you really are.
After a very *ahem* entertaining hour and a forty minute drive to the shore, my mother, brother, Jewels and I arrived at the check-in point at the Wildwood Convention Center. I noticed that I was shaking–not unusual for me with my arrhythmia–but I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t my blood sugar dropping so I crammed a piece of a bagel into my face despite my jumping tummy. Finally at 12:30, the organizers began to herd us all out to the beach. Now, the thing that I don’t like about Wildwood is that the beach is hella long–you have a decent hike to get to the water line–so I’m not surprised that they made us move out that early since the Plunge was at 1pm sharp. The problem with this was that you had half an hour of just chilling freezing on a beach, staring at the water and thinking ‘what the fuck am I doing?‘.
The plungers had their own roped off area where we were gathered into our huge group to countdown and then take off for our freezing Hell together. I had noticed in our “Plunge Packet” of info that it suggested that if it was your first plunge to not go near the front of the group so that you could go into the water at your own pace… so who wants to guess where we stationed ourselves in the group? Yup. Right near the front.
In typical Kat fashion, my countdown was off and as I was screaming “Four!” the pack started taking off. Nonetheless I grabbed Jewels’ hand and began running, too. I’ll be honest and say that I kinda, sorta don’t remember details about the run because I was so jacked on adrenaline and just determined to get as far into the ocean as I could before cold/nerves/my heart gave out that I went on auto-pilot. I remember screaming as we approached the water at full speed. I remember losing my flip flops as soon as we entered the water and not even considering to stop and pick them up. And then the next thing I knew the waves were crashing around my waist and I was only a few feet from the wall of life guards stationed in the ocean at chest height to keep the plungers from going too far.
I’d made it!
I turned around to Jewels, held my fingers up to do a “1, 2, 3!”, grabbed my nose and then dropped my full body into the water as a swell came. As soon as I stood back up, I started to feel dizzy and was having trouble breathing. Jewels had stood up too but since she couldn’t feel her feet she ended up falling back into the water for a second dip. She managed to gain her balance and we started trudging back to the beach. I fucking hate admitting this but I was really struggling and it was only the thought that if I passed out that it would be into freezing water that kept me upright. Jewels may not have known it at the time, but she was holding me up during our celebration hug when got to the shore. The good news though? When you are about to pass out you feel warm so that when we reached the beach, while most people were beating it for the towels and robes, I was just like “Nah, I’m good, don’t need the towel right now”. I eventually did wrap myself up and then we began the hike back to the convention center where they would have lunch for us.
When we reached the ramp to get onto the boardwalk there was a huge clot of people made up of both plungers and spectators making their way on the boards.
“I think that if you didn’t plunge that you should have to wait and let us dripping wet people go first!” I complained to Jewels.
A lady in front of us who was bundled in a hat, gloves and jacket turned around and stepped aside so that we could walk ahead of her. I was shocked because I spout off so much goofy shit that I’m used to people not taking me seriously, so I felt like a jerk and started stammering and apologizing. The woman was really, really sweet though and just smiled and told me that I was completely right. (I still felt like an ass though.)
The food at the lunch was, um, rather… not good. But it was food and it was warm and it as nice of them to provide us with lunch in the first place so I didn’t complain–especially because each plunger could bring a guest to eat for free, too. While we were eating the Special Olympics athletes came on the stage and did a group bow to say thank you, and if the chicken soup didn’t warm you up then that certainly did.
Believe it or not, even though this entry is long, this is actually the condensed account of The Polar Bear Plunge. There was so much that happened, and it was just such an incredibly fun experience. To help convey more of what it was like, we shot a lot of video and then put it all together into a mini movie. It’s long, but I think it’s entertaining enough to get you through 17 minutes. (FYI, watch to the end for an Easter egg–especially if you’re a fan of my dog, Kira.)
Finally, another huge thank you to our supporters. I’ll be putting your links in my sidebar very soon!
PS-This is so Number 11 on my List of Shameless Shit: “Dress to show some skin” because putting on a bathing suit is daunting enough, but you have to be completely shameless to put one on in the Winter when you’re pale and not only at your “Winter weight” but at your “writer weight” where you have been too busy with edits to hit the gym. Not. Attractive.