As I get older and more daring in life, things that I once thought were crazy are crazy no more. One of these things was being a participant in the 2012 Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge, held on the first day of every new year. Last year I participated in my first plunge and had a great experience, but I did it alone that day. This time I invited members of my running club. There were nine of us who were willing to anoint our bodies into the icy-cold goodness of the Atlantic Ocean. As insane and traumatic as this may sound, it is important to describe what one goes through during the entire process of entering the water and becoming a Polar Bear.
At exactly 1:00PM, the “race” into the ocean officially begins. With equal amounts of fear, trepidation and excitement, I, along with hundreds of other people throughout the New York area begin a mad dash straight towards the ocean. In the midst of this frantic run, there are hundreds of spectators, cameramen and photographers taking pictures of everyone. Finally, I make it into the ocean. My feet feel the cold first, feeling like a jolt of icy-cold energy about to begin its rapid ascent through my entire body. For some reason, a huge smile forms on my face and this is happening to everyone else around me. Instead of becoming fearful, everyone begins to become giddy from the freezing sensation we are all experiencing. The icy-cold sensation becomes a drug, and we want more of it.
The absolute, overwhelming and encompassing feeling of coldness around every part of my body awakens my brain and makes me think about the meaning of life at a level that I’ve never felt before. It is at this moment that I have an epiphany about life itself. I am on top of the World.
On a physical level, consider drinking a strong cup of Starbucks coffee; now multiply that ten-fold and that is how awake you feel when submerged in 40-degree water.
After going through the above experience and my epiphany the whole of two minutes, I make sure that I totally submerge myself, head and all, underwater, for this is the only way one can be a true Polar Bear. After doing this deed, both of my feet feel numb, so I SLOWLY start heading back towards the shore. If anything, the one difficult part of the whole Polar Bear experience is the freezing of the feet. Since your feet are extremities and have a lot of capillaries, the coldness one feels there can be quite discomforting. According to the Polar Bear Club Rules, you have to enter, get completely submerged, then immediately leave the water. This rule was no problem for me to follow.
After making it out of the water alive and well, I find my friends and we joyfully high-five one another. We each get certificates stating that we “Did it!”, thereby making our admittance into the Polar Bear Club official.
I am now a certified Polar Bear!
P.S. According to the Polar Bear Club website, no one has ever died from doing a plunge.