The 2014 Block Island Polar Bear Plunge
A hardy group of islanders descended upon Town Beach for the annual Polar Bear Plunge on Wednesday, January 1. And hardy they needed to be, for this was the coldest January 1st on record going back at least ten years.
Folks in full winter gear made their way past the beach pavilion and onto the soft sand of Fred Benson Town Beach in trickles, but by 11:45 AM a full crowd had amassed. The hardiest prepped for the event by shedding some of their layers, while the rest, and quite possibly the sane ones, were content to stand back and watch what was about to occur in the comfort of fleece and down.
The Polar Bear Plunge on Block Island is one of those few community events that binds together the island's thousand-or-so year-round residents. So the faces one sees every year plunging and emerging from our winter water are familiar ones. And for good reason. It takes place in the dead of winter; it occurs during a prohibitive ferry schedule; and let's face it, it is, after all, the morning after New Year's Eve. Any one of those things should be enough to keep people at bay. But there they were, huddled together for warmth, mentally preparing and waiting for the rallying cry amid cheers from their amply-clothed counterparts.
There wasn't a countdown to the mad rush as there has been in years past. And so Trish McGinnes, no stranger to the Plunge, led the charge at 12:00 PM. She began with a couple hesitant skips, a look behind to see if anyone was following, then a full-throttle beeline into her new year's frigid baptism...followed not far behind by about 30 - 40 others.
If they were fast jumping in, they were doubly getting out. A handful did a full body dunk, but most went in chest-high. After shreiks of both delight and shock, each Plunger huffed it back to the warmth of towels, clothes, hugs, hot chocolate and perhaps even some whiskey.
At 12:01 PM it was over.