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!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Waving-In the New Year

Jimmy, Sharon, me, Tony and Stephen
The sun had almost but not quite burned its way through the clouds, so the air was decidedly chilly at 41 degrees. A west-northwesterly wind was roughing up the surface of the water, which looked stern and cold as the West Neck Polar Pod arrived for its annual New Year’s Day swim. Jimmy Kwong, Stephen Leung, Tony Alizzi, Sharon Berg Hochberg and I were there to swim, but bikini-clad Pod-member Nancy Aboff was there, too, hunkered in her SUV, steeling herself for her first-ever polar plunge. Her friend Karen, who was there for moral support, decided to join her at the last minute, and as we wetsuited swimmers huddled at the shoreline adjusting gloves and goggles and nerves, Nancy and Karen, both wearing only bathing suits, ran headlong into the swells, laughing and shrieking like...well, like they were running nearly naked into ice-cold frigid water!

 The rest of us soon followed suit as fellow Pod member Mark Heuwetter, there just to cheerlead, encouraged us from the beach while taking pictures and videos of our progress (including the ones posted here - thanks, Mark!). The wind-driven chop made swimming difficult, and several of us struggled with leaking, fogging goggles that were impossible to adjust with cold, gloved hands. Back at the beach, Jimmy’s friend Bondy waited for our return, intent on taking her own first polar plunge, which Jimmy had promised he’d join her in after our swim. That was all I needed to hear to be inspired myself, and when the Polar Pod’s brief but exhilarating excursion was over, Jimmy and I both stripped off our wetsuits and joined Bondy in a bathing-suit-only bone-chilling New Year’s polar plunge before dashing back to our cars to dry off, warm up and drink hot tea.
Cold-water swimming certainly isn’t for everyone. For the members of the West Neck Polar Pod, our compulsion to push the boundaries of the "open-water swimming season" is motivated less by a fondness for cold water and goosebumps than by a stubborn unwillingness to relinquish the delicious freedom of the open water for the finite container of the pool (though the cold water definitely kicks up our endorphins!). That’s why we were out there today on this first day of 2016...and why we’ll be out there again as often as the weather and our personal constraints allow. So if you weren’t able to join us today (Gae Polisner, Annmarie Kearney-Wood and Joye Brown, you know I’m talking to you!), don’t worry – you’ll have 364 more chances this year!
Happy New Year, everyone! See you in the Salt!