“I can’t believe you’ve never been here,” said my friend, Madeline.
Every year, since 2001, thousands of people throughout Long Beach and now the world, come to Riverside Beach in Long Beach, NY. Some wear bathrobes, some wear layers of clothing and others just wear shorts. The temperature outside today was 24 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill making the real feel like 8 degrees. And each year at the strike of 1 pm, thousands of people strip down and run into the frigid Atlantic Ocean.
When my son and I got to the beach at 12:30 pm, the beach was already packed. We stood on line to get our annual sweatshirts. This year, they are kelly green. (Every year, they are a different color.) As we were standing there, volunteers told us that there were only extra, extra large and 2XL left. We didn’t care. No one else did either. We all just waited. When we got up to the counter, the woman had one extra large available. “I’ll take it,” I said, practically pulling it away from the guy in front of me. (I felt bad but not that bad…)
After we got our sweatshirts, my son and I sat on a bench and waited for our friends to meet us. A few minutes later, they arrived and we walked onto the beach. The wind was blowing so hard that it burned my face and yet, we continued to march down to the water.
David, my girlfriend’s older son said, “okay it’s time to go in…” And with that, everyone in our party who was going in, took off all their clothes right down to their bathing suits and took a run into the water. My son was right there with them. When they were in, they made sure to dunk their heads as well. Moments later, they were out, freezing, and trying to get dressed as quickly as possible as not to get frost bite.
The thing about the Polar Bear Club of Long Beach is that this annual event raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Make a Wish Foundation. It really is a great cause and who knows, maybe next year, I’ll get up the nerve to go in…