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!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Looks Like We Made It....Again!

January 31st swim, with Joye Brown, me, Gae Polisner, and
Annmarie Kearney-Wood -- and an anonymous harbor seal
Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it? The Winter, I mean – especially compared to the last several years of bone-chilling cold and seemingly endless snowstorms. This Winter the West Neck Polar Pod managed to eke out at least one swim in every month except February, so we’re pretty well acclimated and ready for the official start of the 2016 open-water-swimming season on Memorial Day weekend! It’s been a cool Spring, though, despite its early start, and the water temperature has been slow in making its way up into the comfort range for most swimmers. But by Memorial Day weekend, I’m anticipating that the water temperature will have nudged its way into the 60s...at least the low 60s...and that it will be tolerable for some if not most, at least in wetsuits (no, not you, "Princess Rabbi"!).
     The water conditions have otherwise been lovely, though, with extremely clean, clear water throughout most of the pre-season. On my last couple of swims with the Polar Pod I kept thinking I was about to scrape the water bottom, which seemed just inches beneath my outstretched hand, but with each panicky stop I found that the water was still well over my head, and Gae Polisner reported on our last swim that she saw a couple of crabs hugging the bottom as she swam above them. You may remember that last summer, Cold Spring Harbor and Long Island Sound were widely reported to have been visited by a number of Beluga and humpback whales, and this winter the West Neck Polar Pod was astonished when it was joined on one of its swims by a lone harbor seal, who perhaps mistook our black-wetsuited selves for its friends and relatives. These recent sightings may be signs of our harbor’s steadily improving health – or of more dire conditions elsewhere – but I am heartened to see these changes, and look forward to welcoming the dolphins when they, too, return to our harbor.  

April Fools -- me with Gae Polisner and Tony Alizzi
     In the meantime, it looks like we’ll be welcoming more newbies to the West Neck Pod, based on the steady stream of emails and Facebook messages that I received as the winter season waned. The West Neck Pod is still the only truly "open" open-water swimming group on Long Island, with no formal membership or dues, and we continue to welcome all swimmers to join us in appreciating and reveling in the many gifts of the open water. Whether you’re a recreational swimmer, a competitive swimmer, an Ironman triathlete or anything in between, you’ll find a home and fellows here at West Neck Beach. If you’re on our email list or want to be (by request only to westneckpod@verizon.net) or have "liked" our West Neck Pod Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/WestNeckPod), but you haven’t yet joined us for a swim, then maybe this is your year (at your own risk, of course, for competent swimmers only – and be sure to read the disclaimer on our Facebook page)!

     Though Summer is still nearly a month away, this coming weekend marks the official start of our open-water swimming season, with group swims scheduled for Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Memorial Day) mornings at 8:00! This weekend schedule will continue throughout the season and the post-season, and as the morning air and water temperatures continue to rise, a schedule of weekday morning swims will evolve and be posted by email or on Facebook and/or "The Water-Blog" (http://thewater-blog.blogspot.com/) (and hopefully my personal and time constraints will enable me to return to more regular blogposts, which regretfully have been few and far between of late!).

     As our Pod continues to grow and expand, so do the number of impromptu or ad hoc "Podlet" swims, and now, at virtually any time of the day, you can see swimmers ducking under the swim lines and making their way to the South or North Buoy or The Sailboat or beyond (hopefully sporting the brightly colored "floaty-bags" which have become the ubiquitous symbol of the West Neck Pod’s commitment to safety "out there"). We encourage you to post and share info about these informal swims with your fellow Pod members...(and to buy and use those International Swimming Hall of Fame-developed "SaferSwimmer" flotation devices).

Gae Polisner and Joye Brown
     As you begin to "get in the swim" again this year, here are some important upcoming events to post in your calendar:

     This year, for the fifth time, our home West Neck Beach will be the site of Long Island’s premiere open-water swimming event, the "West Neck Swim," with one-mile, two-mile, and 5K events. This year, the Swim will be held on July 31st (race organizers changed the original date from June 26th to avoid conflict with the Huntington Tri and to take advantage of warmer water temperatures and the high-tide schedule). Registration information will be posted on the West Neck Swim website (westneckswim.com) and the West Neck Pod Facebook page.

     Then, in August, the West Neck Pod will once again be participating in the annual "Sound-to-Cove" Swim Across America in Glen Cove. Since we first started participating in 2012, "Team West Neck Pod" has raised nearly $100,000.00 to help support local cancer research, treatment and support services. Like so many Long Island families, our West Neck Pod family has been deeply and personally touched by cancer, and many of our members have lost friends and family members to this disease or are cancer survivors themselves. Each year, the members of Team West Neck Pod pledge our swimming bodies to the fight against cancer – a fight the recent research shows we are winning! To help in the fight against cancer in our community, join Team West Neck Pod – or make a generous donation on behalf of the Team or your favorite swimmer. (http://www.swimacrossamerica.org/site/TR/OpenWater/NassauSuffolk?team_id=18308&pg=team&fr_id=3944).
     See you in the Salt!
Paul Coster and Kevin Flannery

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