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Dec 10, 2016 11:41 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Hundreds Participate In 13th Annual Southampton Village Polar Bear Plunge On Saturday

The air temperature at the 13th annual Polar Bear Plunge at Coopers Beach in Southampton on Saturday was 39 degrees and the water temperature was 47 degrees. BY GREG WEHNER
Dec 13, 2016 3:44 PM

Hundreds of people showed up at Coopers Beach in Southampton Village on Saturday morning to brave frigid temperatures in the name of charity at the 13th annual Polar Bear Plunge.All money raised by the plunge benefits Human Resources of the Hamptons, a Southampton-based nonprofit that provides children, adults, seniors and veterans with the basic necessities, from food and clothing to heating oil to warm their homes.

Hilton Crosby, the director of Human Resources of the Hamptons, estimated that between 300 and 350 people participated in this year’s plunge. “It was a very good turnout,” Mr. Crosby said. “It was cold, but we were all warmed by the support that the community showed for Human Resources of the Hamptons.”

More importantly, he said, he was thankful for the turnout from the community because it will allow the organization to continue helping those in need in Southampton. As of Tuesday morning, the proceeds from the plunge exceeded $26,000—and money was still being counted.

With an air temperature of 39 degrees and water temperature of 47 degrees, people from all over Long Island began registering for the event at 9:30 a.m., some wearing costumes.

Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley was there, as usual, this year in a Santa Claus costume that was cleverly designed to appear as if he were sitting on the shoulders of a snowman. Brian Mott and Jimmy Mack, also regular plunge participants, both wore bright green costumes, with Mr. Mott dressed as a Christmas tree with a star on his head, and Mr. Mack, as usual, dressed as a mermaid holding a rainbow-colored umbrella. Even their dog, Baxter, had reindeer antlers to keep with the holiday spirit.

Southampton Schools Superintendent Dr. Nicholas Dyno was dressed up as a reindeer and was there to help people find where they needed to go to register for the event. Each paying registrant was given a blue-and-gray camouflage hat after handing in the paperwork.

Organizers had fire pits set up on the beach to keep the plungers warm before and after they ran into the Atlantic. Unlike a typical summer beach day, many beachgoers on Saturday wore flip flops or sneakers up until the last minute before getting their feet wet.

Vinny McGann, a surfer from North Sea, was at the Polar Bear Plunge with his crew of 20 wetsuit-wearing volunteers on surfboards. They took their boards out into the water just before the plunge began to provide safety for the plungers, as they have done every year that the event has been held.

Minutes before the plunge, participants made their way toward the water and anxiously waited for the horn to signal when to go in.

Then it happened.

Some ran into the water and some walked. Some dove, and some froze in place. But their time in the water did not last long.

Some young women wearing bathing suits or costumes were hit with a spine-tingling chill that made them stand on their tiptoes, as soon as they got in water up to their ankles. Others kept pushing through until they were completely submerged. Some went into water up to their knees and promptly turned around for shore.

The men, generally, refused to show fear. Many of them pushed their shoulders back and marched to the water, some wearing Santa costumes and others wearing bathing suits—even patriotic ones. To get past the initial shock, some dove into the water, while others ran and stumbled into the water, only to be thankful that they got past that shock by mistake.

“Normally, when it’s low tide, there’s a gully in there, and some people go in and fall into it,” said Jim Ryan, 65, of Quogue. This was Mr. Ryan’s fourth time participating in the plunge; he explained that he has an entire routine for Polar Bear Plunges, but the main part of the routine is to wear sneakers up until the point of going in.

“The first year, it was snowing,” Mr. Ryan said. “I learned to bring sneakers from that point on, for something to stand on. Usually, it’s the feet and the ears that get cold first.”

Mr. Ryan said he participates in the plunge because it is a charity event—plus, it’s better than sitting at home and reading the paper at 10 in the morning.

“I think the colder it is, the more challenging,” he said. “I’ve learned not to go in the first rush. If you’re in the back, you get to see people go in. You let them scream out first, and you watch them and watch if they fall.”

The cold temperatures did not stop the Reverend William Patrick Edwards of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Southampton Village from participating in the plunge. Rev. Edwards went in all the way up to his chest. “It was cold, very cold,” he said on the beach afterward. “I’d rather be in the water. There you don’t feel it.

“It’s a great time, and I’m glad to support HRH,” he added.

Francis Adamczeski helped out in the water, and fortunately, he said, there weren’t any problems. “It was a little chilly and on the cool side,” he said. “Everybody was all happy and excited and jumped in and got a little chill for themselves, and then they got out.”

Southampton Town Trustee Bill Pell did not go into the water, but gave his aid to those who did. Mr. Pell serves on the board of Human Resources of the Hamptons. “I came out here to volunteer my time and support the local charity here,” he said. “It’s a great cause, and it’s surprising how many people came out to support us. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year.”

Even though Mr. Crosby was busy organizing the event, he also found time to participate in the plunge.

“I did go in,” Mr. Crosby said. “[The shock] wasn’t too bad—but I made the mistake of wearing my sunglasses, and they fell to the bottom. I had to go back under and find them. That was brutal.”

He added, “But I found them.”

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What a great day! What a great cause! Congrats and thank you to all of our local polar bears!
By SportsMom (16), Quogue on Dec 11, 16 1:12 AM
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