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, December 31, 2011

2011 to 2012: Swimming from One Year Into the Next...

This morning Annmarie Kearney-Wood and Gae Polisner took their last open-water swim of 2011, plunging into the colder-than-ever but mirror-like waters of Cold Spring Harbor for a nearly half-hour swim on this glorious New Year's Eve Day...Carole Wickham, Kathy Wickham and I would happily have joined them but were tied up this morning taking our written exam for Red Cross Water-Safety Instructor certification after completing a week-long course at C.W. Post (nice pool!). We all passed and, newly certified, arrived at the Beach in time to get the post-swim report from the chilly pair, who said that despite the warmish (50 degrees!) air temperature, they experienced a distinct "brain freeze" for the first minute or two after hitting the shockingly cold water...That eventually dissipated, and they enjoyed a nearly 25-minute swim, with plans to return (if this evening's celebrations permit) for tomorrow's 11:00 a.m. New Year's Day "Polar Bear Swim" at West Neck Beach. In the meantime Carole, flushed with the success of her WSI certification, announced Big Plans for a unique and distinctive New Year's Eve celebration: She intends to swim from 2011 right into 2012, with an open-water swim at West Neck Beach tonight beginning just before midnight and ending....well, sometime in 2012! Of course I'm going with her...and you're all invited to join us for the swim and/or for a champagne (hopefully not too chilled) celebration on the beach afterwards...Happy New Swimming Year!

Look who's here! Remember Ken Longo??

Saturday, December 24, 2011


There was a thin layer of ice on the pond we passed as Carole and I made our way down to West Neck Beach for yet another open-water swim in a season whose "imminent" end we have been whining about since August...For the five "Polar Pod" members who took the plunge today -- Carole Wickham, Kathy Wickham, Gae Polisner, Rob Todd and I -- this was our first-ever Winter swim, the Solstice having marked the official beginning of Winter earlier this week. (Rob Martell, of course, is now a veteran winter swimmer, and soloed at WNB yesterday when the rest of us bailed because of high wind and rough water).  This morning, with air temperatures of 32 degrees, it really felt like Winter, especially when the wind suddenly picked up and began throwing icy whitecaps in our faces as we edged our way into the water and started swimming. The cold wind added to the already bitter sting on our exposed skin (which for Rob Todd still includes his bare feet -- I don't know how he does it!), and the initial "three minutes of 'holy-crap' coldness" that Rob Martell describes lengthened to nearly five before we were acclimated enough to once again revel in the experience of the open water and enjoy another exhilarating, invigorating, and truly empowering swim....Now, on December 24th, Christmas Eve, with our first Winter swim behind us, we are truly a Pod for all seasons, and are no longer whining...because we know that our 2011 open-water swimming season will only end when 2011 does -- on December 31st!  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!  See you in the Salt!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The West Neck "Polar Pod" Is Seven Strong for Saturday's Swim!

Gae, demonstrating proper pre-swim headgear
It's somewhat paradoxical that the numbers of the West Neck "Polar Pod" should be increasing now that December is here and  overnight temperatures have dropped to near the freezing mark, but that's exactly what's happened, as a total of seven intrepids showed up at West Neck Beach for Saturday morning's 11:00 swim! The air temperature and the water temperature were evenly matched at about 42 degrees, and Annmarie Kearney-Wood, Carole Wickham, Kathy Wickham, Rob Todd, Marc Leahy, Gae Polisner and I huddled in our cars as we suited up out of the wind. Marc, whom we were not expecting to see again until Spring after his post-Thanksgiving November OWS debut, returned for a tilt at December, now properly outfitted with insulated booties and gloves, but Rob Todd was still incomprehensibly barefoot and barehanded, having opted to hold off on shopping for cold-water gear until next season. Annmarie -- who doesn't mind shopping -- has procured fabulous new thermocarbon gloves from the Bunger Surf Shop for the rest of us -- technological marvels that really do keep our hands perfectly warm -- so I loaned Rob my old pair of insulated gloves to give him some extra protection from the cold.  (One unfortunate casualty of the new thick-fingered thermocarbon gloves is picture-taking in the water -- I can't hold the camera properly and it's almost impossible to push the buttons.)  Suiting up for cold-water swimming is a complicated and time-consuming affair, but after tugging on our wetsuits over our layered swim shirts and bathing suits, and pulling on double bathing caps, double booties and insulated gloves, we were ready to swim. The water was calm and glass-like, but with at-the-shoreline temperatures measuring between 40 and 42 degrees, it felt cold -- significantly colder than it was on Thursday when Gae, Annmarie and I took our first December swim.  Getting acclimated to the colder water took a bit longer, too, and I was nearly to the dock before I was able to put my face fully in the water. North of the dock, though, where the water is appreciably warmer, my face stopped hurting and I could settle into my swimming rhythm. With the sun shining brightly over my left shoulder and sparkling on the crystal clear water, I no longer felt the cold, and I was as happy and peaceful -- and almost as warm -- as if I were swimming in the Carribean! Rob Todd evidently wasn't feeling the cold either despite his bare feet, and managed a solo power swim to the end of the Causeway and back! The rest of us were content with a more modest round-trip to the yellow sign...with the anticipation of still more glorious open-water swims to come!  Stay tuned for the further adventures of the West Neck "Polar Pod" (and thanks to our Pod-sister Joye Brown for the appellation!)....We'll see you in the Salt!
After the swim, warming up in our cars...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Yes, Virginia, There Is Still Open-Water Swimming in December!"

The sun was already low in the sky, though it was still shining brightly, when Annmarie Kearney-Wood, Gae Polisner and I stepped into the West Neck Salt at 3:07 this afternoon for our first-ever December open-water swim! The water felt cold but not unbearably so -- no doubt as a result of the 60+-degree weather of the last several days -- and with our new "Psycho gloves" or their equivalent (Gae was right -- they are a game-changer!), we felt like we could swim forever, despite the whitecaps and the crazy chop kicked up by a steady northwesterly wind. Thirty-five minutes later, with our toes numbing up from the cold, we weren't so sure, but when we emerged from the water, giddy and giggling on this December afternoon, we were making plans for our next December swim, on Saturday morning at 11:00! See you in the December Salt -- bring your "Psycho" gloves! Oh, and Christine and Rob, YOU OWE US A DRINK!!