We already know that WiO instructor, Virginia, is one cool chick -- but her latest endeavor makes her even cooler, literally. We're so proud to have her on our team and for her fundraising efforts for Camp Sunshine. Read on for Virginia's story about why she's taking the plunge on January 1! From Virginia... As 2013 came to a close I was making a list of things I wanted to do in 2014. Right at the top of the list was something I wanted to do since I had first seen a news blurb about it long ago...take the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. The concept is simple enough. Head out to Coney Island on New Years Day and jump in the ocean. Easy peasy. I guess the one thing to bear in mind is the temperature on January 1st in Coney Island averages 39 degrees with the water temperature hovering only a few degrees above that.
In my mind if I could start the year out by plunging myself into near freezing water then I could do anything. Set the tone for 2014. Place the bar high...jump over it and hit the ground running on the other side.
Mere hours after making my list (which also included getting SPIN certified which I did 2 weeks into 2014!) I had already told friends and family I was doing it. There was no turning back. Within 24 hours I had signed up online and it was set in stone.
On New Years Day my husband, my daughter and I loaded into the car and headed out to Brooklyn. A glance at my phone cuts to the chase...33 degrees (windchill 28) and 44 degree water temperature...this is no dip in the Caribbean. The slightly colder than average temps only boost my resolve. This is happening.
Coney Island in the summer is a unusual place...Coney Island in the winter is downright surreal. A couple thousand people gathered to either jump in freezing cold water or point and laugh at people jumping in freezing cold water. There were groups in costumes. There were people who looked like they had been partying all night and wandered onto the beach. There were little kids and elderly "kids-at-heart". When we arrived there were several people already swimming seemingly unaware this was anything other than ordinary.
I was in the first wave of swimmers. To get to the water you are funneled into a corridor of screaming “fans”. Hundreds of people cheering you on...photographers all yelling for you to turn towards them....police boats...coast guard...lifeguards in kayaks...it is a beautiful, chaotic scene. I got to the front of the pack. Go big or go home! My goal at this point was to get out far enough to actually swim, go under water and swim back. Then the police began to herd all the photographers off to one side and we were seconds away. I was aware I was standing next to a man in a Hulk Hogan costume. I was aware I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I was totally unaware of the cold. Someone blew a conch shell and it was on! Hulk Hogan and I hit the water within seconds. It didn't hit me like the ton of bricks I expected. I got far enough out to lift my legs and actually swim. I was barely cold...I was smiling from ear to ear. I was part of a team of hundreds of people coming together to do something totally silly. I have no idea what drove everyone else to the beach that day, but we were all here and it was glorious.
After 2-3 minutes it was over. I hurried back to my family to gather my stuff. It was only then that I started to notice how cold it was...but all that was easily solved with a quick change into dry clothes, a few well placed hand warmers in my boots and heated seats in the car.
I cannot think of a better way to start 2015 so I am headed back again. This year I have created a fundraising page for the Polar Bears charity partner, Camp Sunshine. It is a wonderful year round camp in Maine for children with life threatening illness. The camp is completely free of charge to all campers and is funded through donations. The Polar Bears hope to raise $20,000 to go directly to Camp Sunshine. If you would like to give to my team please visit my team page https://www.crowdrise.com/07030hitssocold . If you want to take it a step further and JOIN me you can sign up and with a 20 dollar donation you can be assured a spot in the first wave of swimmers. The more the merrier...and I can promise it will be a New Years Day not soon forgotten!