As we lined up on the shore, I had an almost stifling feeling of, “I’m pretty sure I don’t want to do this.”
I buried my frozen toes in the equally chilly sand, some backwards part of my brain insisting that this would help keep them warmer. Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
My friend Heather was clutching my arm tightly, partly out of excitement, but I think partly to make sure I didn’t bolt back to my warm sweatshirt, lying in a sandy heap twenty feet back up on the beach. A puff of steam escaped her mouth as she turned to me and shrieked out, “Ready?!”
When you’re about to dive into the ocean in February in New York, it’s honestly probably better that you don’t think too hard about whether or not you’re ready.
So without another thought, we both screamed out a war whoop and ran into the waves as fast as we could.
The thing is, I’m not really what you would call a “wild and crazy” person.
Well, okay, maybe crazy. We all have our crazy moments. I guess I’m just not someone who has ever been described (in earnest) as wild.
Which is why, when Heather and her husband Brett first suggested that a bunch of our friends join them in a Polar Bear Plunge on Super Bowl Sunday, my first thought was, “Ohhhh you guys. Sillies.”
But the more I thought about it, the more I felt like if I didn’t just do it, I’d regret it. After all, more than one person has since told me that taking part in a polar bear plunge is on their bucket list. (Who knew so many people were secret masochists?)
So I agreed. And I signed up.
And then suddenly it was Sunday morning. My friends, being the oh-so-funny people they are, riled each other up all morning commenting on how cold out it was. (Or, in the case of the more sarcastic among us, how it was “So nice out! Anyone want to go to the beach?!?”)
For the record, it wasn’t nearly as cold as it could have been. The temperature hovered somewhere in the low 40s, and the ocean was supposed to be about the same.
When it’s early spring and people tell you the temperatures are going to get into the 40s, it sounds practically balmy. When you’re jumping into the ocean and people tell you it’s in the 40s, you feel…differently.
After we finally got to the beach and elbowed our way through a crowd of several thousand people to the waves, then it was time to actually remove the protective layers of sweat pants, sweat shirts, and boots. A few of our friends wore speedos. (Go big or go home.)
As we stood there in our swimsuits, hopping around to keep warm as much as to keep our adrenaline up, sneaking sips out of a few flasks passed among us (also for warmth…it’s science), it was hard not to wonder if maybe I was out of my element just a bit.
It’s no secret I hate being cold. More than almost anything. And now I was about to throw myself into what would probably go down as the coldest moment of my life. Right.
Before I could let my, you know, common sense get the better of me, we all moved toward the water.
There wasn’t really any ceremony to the actual plunge. There were too many people for everyone to run in together, so it was up to the individual to make their move.
Honestly, the whole thing happened really fast, and the water was so cold you didn’t really have the mental faculties to form a lot of concrete memories. I have a vague recollection of a few small waves hitting my shins and thinking, “Well dang. That is really, really cold.” The other thing I remember is that everyone was screaming around me. You would have thought we were storming the beaches of Normandy. Not simply going for a chilly swim for charity.
My biggest concern was that the ocean floor doesn’t drop off too quickly, which would mean I’d have to run about 20 feet or so (through frigid water) to get to a point where I could actually submerge my body. Which would then mean a 20 foot hike back to shore. (And therefore to my waiting towel and warmth.)
Fortunately, the ocean took care of that problem for me by knocking my feet out from under me about 10 feet out. I let my body roll under a wave for a second before popping up, letting out one good, “OH MY GOD!” and then bee-lining for the sand.
My friend Jessica (who had said under no circumstances was she getting in the water) waited on the beach holding our towels and taking pictures of the madness (and, let’s be honest, laughing her head off). As I ran up to her (still screaming), she snapped a quick picture of me post-plunge.
(Weird that you’ve all now seen me in a swim suit? Oh well, the entire country knows what I weigh, so it’s probably a little late to start being coy.)
My favorite part about this photo is how obviously pushed out of my comfort zone I am. And even though I would never describe the plunge as “pleasant,” I look crazy, silly happy in that picture.
Sometimes as life starts to get more figured out, as things start to settle and become routine, it’s nice to remind yourself that you can still do wild and crazy things. You can still be wild and crazy.
And honestly, the whole thing wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s intensely bad when you’re actually in the water, but you recover pretty quickly. (Note to anyone planning on doing one: Your toes and fingers will still be freezing long after you’ve left the water. Prepare accordingly.) I’m definitely planning on doing it again next year.
Because, you know. I’m just that wild and crazy.