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!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Pod Is Back!!

Attendance has been sparse at weekend morning swims since the unofficial (and disappointing) start of the open-water swimming season on Memorial Day Weekend (see previous blogpost!).  An unusually cool Spring has kept both air and water temperatures low, keeping many erstwhile open water swimmers pool-bound, and it seems that the weather has not yet caught up with the calendar.  Last weekend the water temperature finally edged up to 67-68 degrees, but after a week of chilly, rainy weather the water temperature yesterday had dropped to 63, and by this morning it had dropped even further, to 60-61 degrees! But with just one more week of Spring swimming left, and the Third Annual "West Neck Swim" just a week away, West Neck Beach was thronged with returning swimmers this morning. Most -- even those without wetsuits -- made their way all the way to the Sailboat, undeterred by the still-ripping incoming full-moon tide and the uneven chop of a brisk northwesterly wind.  It looks like the 2014 open-water swimming season has finally begun in earnest!  Even weekday morning swims may resume shortly, with a first open water swim tentatively scheduled for Wednesday morning at 6:30 a.m. (check Facebook for updates and other info about ad hoc swims). 

Next Saturday, June 21st, marks the Summer Solstice and the official beginning of Summer 2014! It's also your last weekend chance to try out the venue and "test the waters" if you're registered or planning to register for this year's WEST NECK SWIM, which will take place Sunday, June 22nd, at West Neck Beach.  The deadline to register for the 1-mile, 2-mile, or new 5K event is Tuesday, June 17th, so time is running out! For registration and other info about the West Neck Swim, follow this link: http://www.westneckswim.com/.

See you in the Salt!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Crappy" Start to Memorial Day Weekend OWS!

As the 2014 Memorial Day Weekend approached, Newsday reported that 125,000 gallons of partially treated sewage had accidentally been released into Oyster Bay, and that six Nassau County beaches -- some directly across the harbor from West Neck Beach! -- were closed as a "precaution." That information -- combined with Friday evening's torrential rains and the concomitant threat of additional toxic contamination -- was not enough to cause the closure of West Neck and other nearby Suffolk County beaches despite their close proximity to Oyster Bay.  But West Neck Podders, forewarned by the Newsday article as well as by Facebook and email posts (and undoubtedly further deterred by continued unseasonably low water temperatures), stayed away from Saturday morning's official season-opening open-water swim in droves....Even I was sufficiently disconcerted by the prospect of sewage-laden water to decide not to risk a swim, but I headed down to West Neck Beach anyway to see if anyone was crazy enough to venture into the Salt. The early morning clouds were just giving way to brilliant sunshine, which reflected off the surface of the pristine-looking water -- no sewage in sight! Four intrepids were suiting up in the parking lot, nonplussed by the sewage spill, which as they pointed out was "partially treated" and so practically innocuous -- indeed, more so than the water temperature which was somewhere between 56 and 58 degrees. (Lorraine Huether was happy for the coldish water in anticipation of her Alcatraz swim next weekend!) While I watched from the shore (quite happily, I might add), Marc Leahy, Stephen Albright, Anthony Sarchiapone and Lorraine boldly struck off for the north buoy (yes, the buoys are back!) and then continued onward to the yellow sign.  All returned safely and without any apparent ill effects (or significant discoloration), and, with the expectation that conditions would only improve with a few more tidal flushes, I looked forward to my own first open-water swim of the official 2014 season on Sunday.


Cheerleader Susan Robinson
By Sunday, not only had there been no reported fatalities as a result of Saturday's swim, but Marc, Lorraine and Stephen all returned for another dose of Salt, joined by me and by Tim Sullivan for his first open-water swim since November 1st! We swam to the north buoy and then on to the yellow sign.  Enjoying the near-perfect conditions (but for a surprising number of lion's mane jellyfish sightings), and forgetting my pre-swim admonition that the tide turns about an hour earlier than the tide tables reflect, we decided to continue on to the White Rock -- just in time to have to slog back against a just-turned tide. After a winter of very little swimming, I was just barely up to the challenge -- as my aching shoulders and wetsuit-bitten neck can attest. 

Marc -- sleeveless but not gloveless

The White Rock
Fortunately, there's a whole season of swimming ahead for me to build up my endurance and speed and regain my swimming chops again -- but I'm taking tomorrow off!  Happy Memorial Day, everyone -- See you in the Salt!

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!