DISCLAIMER: Open-water swimming is inherently dangerous. Open-water swimmers risk drowning, hypothermia, hyperthermia, heart attacks, panic attacks, cramping, jelly fish stings, fish bites, boat or jet-ski collisions, collisions with floating or submerged objects (including other swimmers), and other calamities that can be injurious, disabling or fatal! The "West Neck Pod" is an informal association of open-water swimmers who swim "outside the lines" with no lifeguard protection, it has no formal membership, organizational structure or legal identity, and its participants, including the author of this blog, make no representations and assume no liability with respect to its group open-water swims. All swimmers who participate in West Neck Pod group open-water swims do so at their own risk. Be careful out there!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

It's Open-Season for Open-Water Swimming!

After a l-o-n-g, brutal winter that kept even the West Neck "Polar Pod" out of the water since mid-November, and delayed by several weeks the telltale signs of Spring, the slowly emerging crocuses and tulips and daffodils began to give hope of an eventual return to open-water swimming. The Polar Pod optimistically scheduled a "Resurrection Swim" for April 19th, the Saturday before Easter. But when the temperatures were forecast to go into the 60s this week, Annmarie Kearney-Wood was quick to urge us into the water sooner -- just in case the weather decided to go south again.

Five Polar Pod members took up the challenge, and on Saturday, April 12th, Annmarie, Joye Brown, Carole Wickham, Sharon Hochberg and I tiptoed, with winter-tenderized feet, over the low-tide rocks that poked and bruised even through our insulated booties.  The booties kept the cold at bay, but not our necklines, and when, one by one, we lowered ourselves into the 40-degree water, our wetsuits filled with icy daggers that sheared our skin and stung and burned our unacclimatized faces.  But the sun was shining brilliantly and glinting on the flat, calm water that looked so inviting....Joye reminded us that we'd swum in worse conditions in November, and when she said, "We can do this," of course we did!  It was -- as our cold-water swims always are -- incredibly invigorating and energizing, and the Polar Pod is all fired up to do it again tomorrow!  See you in the Salt!
Carole, Joye, Carol, Annmarie and Sharon
Basking in the sun and drinking hot tea afterwards


Friday, November 15, 2013

Would you like that OWS straight up? or on the rocks?

Yes, those are frozen smiles on our faces...
Now that was refreshing! 
Gae Polisner's earlier Facebook plea for company in a mid-afternoon swim "if it gets sunny" (it did!), was met with a flurry of wistfully regretful declines, but Carole Wickham and I were able to answer the call, and a Polar Tri-Pod entered the "Oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-how-cold-this-is" water at about 2:45 this afternoon.... "How cold was it," you ask? According to my trusty laser thermometer -- employed at mid-thigh depth as it is every time -- and which most recently gave a temperature reading in the low (very low!) 40s -- the water temperature this afternoon was an unbelievable 35-36 degrees!  Just to put things in perspective, the coldest water the West Neck Polar Pod has swum in previously was a bone-chilling 37 degrees -- and that was in January! If it were not for the relatively warm (55 degrees) air temperature today, and a relatively sedate 4 mph wind, we probably would have opted to go out for cheeseburgers instead...But we were there, already half-suited up, and it would have been unthinkable to turn around and leave without even getting wet...So we swam -- with flash-frozen faces, hands and feet  -- not far (back and forth between the dock and the jetty), and not long (20+ minutes) -- but  enough to get our endorphins pumping and make the swim and the effort completely and utterly and unforgettably worthwhile....!

Naturally we'll be doing it again tomorrow!  See you in the Salt!

(By the way, salt water doesn't freeze until the temperature reaches 28.4 degrees Fahrenheit -- so we've still got lots of open-water swimming ahead of us!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Open-water swimming now? Just say “NO”-vember!!

The first open-water swim of November 2013 was as hair-raising and spooky as yesterday’s Halloween swim should have been....Though the fearsome southwesterly wind did not quite reach the nearly 40 mph gusts that were predicted, it was still blowin’ quite a gale when we arrived – just in time for the pelting rain – shortly before our scheduled 10:30 swim. A thin ribbon of fog was forming on the opposite shore and stealthily making its way across the harbor, threatening to obliterate the South Buoy we’d be swimming toward on an outgoing high tide. But the air temperature was nearly in the mid-sixties, the air felt summer-warm, and the water looked so inviting, despite the white-capped waves crashing on the beach, that it would have been torture not to be able to swim (especially for Annmarie Kearney-Wood, who’d driven up from the South Shore so as not to miss this first November swim). Joye Brown, who’d just checked in with the weather-gods, assured us that this was just a passing squall, and that the thunderstorm/lightning warning for the area (who knew!) would be lifted at 10:30, just in time for our swim. As it turned out, Joye and the weather-gods were right, and we only had to wait in our cars for a short while before the rain stopped and the fog lifted and we could finish suiting up and head into the swirling Salt for our first November swim....

Joye Brown

Gae and Annmarie and waves...


 For Gae Polisner and Annmarie, who haven’t been swimming regularly in this post-season and were not completely acclimatized to the cold water, "The-House-Formerly-Known-as-Blue" was a sufficient target, and they made their way there, hugging the shoreline (which was easy, since that’s where the wind was pushing them!). The rest of us (Carole Wickham, Joye Brown, Steven Leung and I) continued on to the South Buoy – not an easy trek even for Steven, who’d be a West Neck Polar Pod "Big-Dog" if there were any other Big-Dogs out here to swim with him! The way back was a lot easier, though, with the tide and the wind conspiring to whoosh us homeward. Getting out was a breeze, despite the wind, and we were warm enough to enjoy the still-flowing outside showers despite the lack of sun.

South Buoy in November (with Joye, Carole and Steven!)
Holdouts Joye and me, both reluctant to get out of the water....
While the others showered and dressed and Joye and I dawdled on the beach, still in our wetsuits, our attention was suddenly caught by a figure at the far end of the parking lot edging across the sand towards the water. She? – we nearsightedly assumed – was clad only in bikini briefs, and though her arms were crossed in front of her chest, she appeared to be topless! We all watched as she stepped tentatively over the rocks and into the water, then kept going.... Momentarily panic-stricken, I thought, "Oh, no, is this a suicide attempt?" and watched in anguish as the woman forged ahead and then suddenly threw herself forward, disappearing beneath an oncoming wave. She popped up again a moment later and, to my great relief, immediately turned towards shore, found her footing, and made her careful way back onto the beach, her arms again folded discreetly across her otherwise bare chest....No, I realized, this was no suicide attempt – this was the opposite of a suicide attempt! This was a woman daring to feel herself alive...throwing herself into the Salt, giving birth to herself, baptizing herself...She was here to live....She was here for the same reason we were...! I raised my arms in salute and whooped with approbation and solidarity, and she smiled and nodded in recognition and acceptance as she made her solitary way back to the parking lot and her car....

Joye, who by now had stripped off her wetsuit, tossed me a sidelong look, grunted something unintelligible, then set off resolutely towards the water. I knew, and I knew Joye knew, that there was no way our wetsuited/begloved/bootied swim to the South Buoy and back could match the chest-clutching, bare-breasted heroism of that unknown woman on the beach, and I knew that Joye was on a mission to rectify that. Of course I followed her, stripping off my wetsuit in the Salt, while Joye, shoulder-deep, busied herself beneath the waves. Moments later, she held her bathing suit aloft, and as our now-dressed-and-ready-to-leave woman-hero’s car drove slowly past the beach, I pulled my bathing suit down to my waist and raised my arms in a bare-breasted salute to her, to Joye, to my Polar-Pod fellows cheering us on from the beach, to the Salt, to Life....

Of course Gae took a picture, but I’m not posting that....See you in the Salt tomorrow at 8:00 for the second open-water swim of November 2013!  L’chaim!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween Swim...Wicked Fun!

No icy fingers reached up to grab our unsuspecting ankles and drag us soundlessly down to Davy Jones' locker... no bloated corpses leered up at us from the murky depths below...no sea monsters from the deep swallowed us whole...and we were not churned to mincemeat by the outboard motors of a deranged boat captain bent on mayhem....In fact, this morning's pre-dawn Halloween swim was pretty benign, and the five of us who suited up in the early morning darkness -- Carole Wickham, Joye Brown, Jimmy Kwong, Tony Alizzi and I -- had an eerily nice time! Unlike the hair-raising swims of last week, this morning there was absolutely no wind, the water was, well, dead calm, the air temperature was a practically balmy 50 degrees, and the water, back up to 52-53 degrees, did not invoke the usual ear-splitting shrieks as it crept into our wetsuits...In honor of the occasion we wore bright orange Halloween caps, and Joye handed out glowsticks that made our floaty-bags glow like jack-o'-lanterns as we swam to the yellow sign and back. It was even warm enough to shower on the beach afterwards -- yes, the showers are still on! -- and then...our last open-water swim of October 2013 was over....!
But November swimming begins tomorrow....See you in the Salt!

Jimmy and Tony


Looks like there were some Halloween ghosts out there after all!

Joye's floaty-bag glowing under the water

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Another Fall Mourning

The waning full moon was still faintly illuminating the surface of the water when Joye Brown and I arrived at West Neck Beach in the early morning darkness for a 6:45 swim....By the time we got in the water just before 7, both water and sky had brightened somewhat, and we could actually see the buoy we were swimming towards. As the moon light faded and the sun dawned, lighting up the opposite shore, the colors of the changing leaves on the distant trees glowed like embers....
This is heaven, this October swimming. This is heaven. If only it could last forever....


See you in the Salt!