Why I Ran Into The Bay In February

There’s something incredibly invigorating about jumping into the water off of the coast of New York in the middle of February. Incredibly invigorating and, also, incredibly insane. The latter thought seized me as I woke up on Saturday morning to snow, which I recognized with a mixture of irony, bitterness and sheer fear, of course, would happen on the day I intended to jump into the icy Sag Harbor waters.

Go Big or Go Home?

Dan’s Papers had been advertising my commitment to the Frosty Plunge, part of Sag Harbor’s HarborFrost, for a solid three weeks. I decided to enlist my dad in the adventure as well. We arrived at the Sag Harbor windmill about 20 minutes prior to the start of the plunge, and as the wind whipped across my face and through my apparently poorly made sweatpants, I started to have second thoughts.

“Do you have shoes to bring into the water?” asked the volunteer, as I signed my life away and assumed all risk for everything that could possibly go wrong, which apparently is a lot. I looked down at my feet, encased in my warmest pair of boots, and tentatively shook my head no.

“Why?” I asked.

“Oh, no reason,” she said, deftly avoiding eye contact. “It’s just that sometimes people throw things into the water,” she casually remarked.

Oh, no big deal I thought, as I mentally added “bloody feet” to my list of increasingly expanding fears associated with this dip.

Just for the record, 20 minutes is too long to wait on the beach. I stood by the water’s edge, marveling at the crazies who were already undressed and running around trying to get pumped up, and mentally made a list of all the reasons why I shouldn’t do this.

Actually, there was only one reason. IT’S COLD OUTSIDE. Ok, two. What if the Montauk Monster comes back and eats me? What if it has a sense of smell like a shark and is attracted to my bloody feet? Yikes!

But, there’s one reason to do it: It’s awesome. And it was with that thought that I stripped down to my yellow bikini, stared at the horizon like we were in a Mexican stand-off and ran as fast as I could into the cold.

The key is, obviously, not to stop. I’ve done the Cooper’s Beach Plunge before and the less thinking you do, the better. Run. Get in the way of a wave. Get out.

But running into the harbor is different, and I had a strange out-of-body experience where I thought—why am I still going deeper? Why am I still running? Get in just as far as you need to, sit down, dunk your head and then run out!

So while everyone else felt compelled to go in up to their chest, I stopped at my waist and dove under.

And then it was over.

And I ran up the beach and threw on my clothes like some discombobulated contestant in an obstacle course game show. Jumping up and down to keep warm, wiping sand off of my feet. My dad joked that I was out of the water before he even put his head underneath, and he was definitely right.

A woman from Phao handed me a cup of deliciously hot soup, and I remarked with breathless enthusiasm how alive I felt. Nothing like a dip to kick-start your day.

I’ll be back.

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