New Years day 2014, and I am in New York City, the city that never sleeps. Though when the temperature drops I am sure there is a lot of hibernation going on. After going to a show in the East Village to bring in the New Year, what better way to clear the cobwebs with a dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
Each New Years Day, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club hosts a swim at Coney Island. The club is the oldest on the east coast of the USA formed in 1903 to encourage bathing in the sea in winter. Most of the club members swim every weekend through the winter, , but on New Years Day they are joined by 2500 other intrepid souls for a dip in the ocean. It is also a fundraising event for charity, with tens of thousands of dollars raised.
At this time of year the water is around 4c, and this year was the coldest New Years Day in five years: the air temperature at 1pm was zero, with a wind chill of -6c. At least that made the water look warm.
I arrived at the beach just before the one pm start time, after the long subway ride from Manhattan. I was amazed at how many people were here to swim today, many more than I sore during my summer 2012 visits to this beach. Of course, not everyone was going in, there were a lot of support crew around to hold those hip flasks, and keep the warm clothes warm.
I had been under the weather for a few days, and had not decided whetheror not to go in. However, once on the beach amongst the crowd I decided to go in. I had come a long way for this opportunity, and who knew when I would be able to do it again.
I quickly took off my socks, boots, hoody, long sleeve shirt, thermal long sleeve vest, thermal leggings, beanie, gloves and track suit pants, and stood there in the cold air. It was not that cold I tried to tell myself as I jogged down to the water. Over to my left the first official wave were throwing themselves in with lots of cheers and yelping. As I entered the water I felt the cold water on my legs until they went numb. I waded out till the water was waist deep, splashed myself with water, and then ran out before my legs stopped working. As I exited the water I tried to remember where I had left my gear, but my faithful assistant stood out in her colourful clothing like a lighthouse on a stormy sea.
Now I had to dry myself, and the soft towel felt like sandpaper on my legs as I tried to get warm. On with my clothes in record time. I had done it: plunged into the ocean at Coney Island on a freezing cold winter’s day with other like-minded sea worshipers. An amazing experience and one I will remember for a long time. I will never complain about cold water in Australia again.
After I was dressed, I took some photos of some of the other waves as they entered the water. The atmosphere was terrific, and the boys in blue looked bemused by it all.
As we walked back to the subway, I thought this was a great way to start 2014. It was certainly a different start to the 2013 year, when I swam in the warm water at Manly in Sydney. Little did I know on that day where my swimming would take me in 2013. And now for 2014.