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Annual East Hampton polar plunge started as a 'dare'

A polar princess emerged at the 2015 Main

A polar princess emerged at the 2015 Main Beach Polar Bear Plunge in East Hampton. Joan Tulp, then 85, glided into the water like royalty in a mink coat, tiara and ruby red lipstick. "I feel good," she said simply as she and 300 others took the plunge. Credit: Ursula Moore

Joan Tulp came dressed to impress in a mink fur and tiara before slowly walking into the 40-degree Atlantic Ocean.

Tulp, 85, was one of nearly 300 participants in the 14th annual Polar Bear Plunge at Main Beach in East Hampton on New Year’s Day, and took it all in stride.

“I feel good,” she said.

The plunge benefited the East Hampton Food Pantry. Tulp knew she wanted to participate after seeing firsthand the many families that come to the pantry in need of food donations.

“There are not-so-rich people here in the Hamptons,” explained Tulp, who plunged for the third time at the event. “Most people would never believe it.”

The event was hosted by the YMCA East Hampton Hurricanes swim club and the East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad. According to East Hampton Food Pantry executive director Gabrielle Scarpaci, the pantry fed more than 31,000 people in 2014.

The annual polar plunge began as a dare, with the swim team daring the swim coaches to plunge into the ocean.

“It is amazing what a dare has turned into,” said East Hampton YMCA Hurricanes head coach Tom Cohill, 38. “Little kids as young as 6 come out here with their parents.”

Added East Hampton Town's chief lifeguard, John Ryan Jr.: “We have had miserable weather days and the people still come. The first year, only around 15 people and the second year, around 50 and it keeps growing and growing.”

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