Hello everyone! I’m back again with more adventures! This year I took part in the Wildwood Polar Plunge. It was run by the Special Olympics of New Jersey. Before I get into detail about the event itself, let’s talk about what a Polar Plunge is and why we do it.
What is a Polar Plunge? A Polar Plunge is when a bunch of people get together and go for a winter swim in really cold water. In my case, this event was held off the New Jersey shore in Wildwood on January 12th 2019. There were about 1000 people participating in this years plunge. Fun fact, participants call themselves “Plungers”.
Why do people voluntarily do this? Well, it’s a fundraiser event for the Special Olympics. The Special Olympics is a charity that helps kids with disabilities participate in sports. If you want to become a Plunger, you sign up and pay a small registration fee. After this is complete you can have other people sponsor you. Think of it like saying thank you for freezing for a good cause.
Now let’s talk about the event itself. On the day of the Plunge. After checking in, I went out to the beach to get a better understanding of the conditions. The air temperature was in the low 30’s and the water temperature was in the low 40’s. That’s pretty average for this time of year but still really cold. After that I made my way back up to the convention center to get changed and stay warm before the event. You would think I was at a football game with the amount of people tailgating and partying. I was also very impressed with the costumes people came up with. My particular favorite was a guy dressed up as aquaman. Once it got closer to Plunge time, everyone made their way outside and lined up behind the starting rope. At 1:00pm the rope dropped and we were off for a dip in the super cold water. I made it out about as far as I was allowed, did a dunk in the water, then started heading back. The video describes it better than words. I have a link to my YouTube video of the even as well as a link to some drone footage that shows a great view from above. When water is this cold, your body doesn’t quite know what to do with it. My legs were in the longest and went numb almost instantly. My “dunk” in the water was literally enough to knock the wind out of me. After that we all headed back up to the convention center to change and have a nice hot lunch!
Was it safe? Yes. I have to talk about how the event was organized a bit here because I was truly impressed. The basics were well handled. Everyone knew where to go and when to get there. Staff were always around if you had a question and most importantly emergency workers were present during the event itself. You can’t tell from the drone footage but there were a line of safety personnel marking how far plungers were allowed to travel into the water. The safety folks were dressed in drysuits, sealed suits that only allow their head and hands to get wet. It’s the same exposure protection i use when I go diving in the winter time. Since their core never gets wet, it slows down the rate of heat loss drastically. The safety workers were the first ones in and the last ones out and I think they did a great job making sure everyone had a fun and safe time. As for the Plungers like myself, the actual amount of time spent in the water is very, very small. I think i was one of the folks in the longest and I was only in for about 60-90 seconds. Most of that was only my legs, my total body dip in the water was only 2-3 seconds. Conditions like frostbite and hypothermia can happen quickly in conditions this cold but general discomfort happens way faster and the safety workers were watching for anyone pushing themselves too hard.
In short, I am very thankful I participated. It was a very enjoyable experience even with it being very cold. The atmosphere was very positive. The staff was very well informed and helpful. Most importantly the safety staff seemed well trained and attentive. Personally, I would like to say thank you one more time to all the people who sponsored me. You’re kindness and support are truly awe inspiring. Also, one final shout out to my boss Dan at Making Waves for making this whole adventure possible.
- My video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IFrJiQgb0U&t=13s
- Overhead drone footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvLMBkHKV0g