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Fast friends bond in freezing water at Blue Point plunge

Richard May, 59, from Patchogue, left, and Dennis

Richard May, 59, from Patchogue, left, and Dennis Sinnott Sr., 72, from Holbrook, arrived as strangers but left as friends, the last two participants to emerge from the water during the annual polar plunge on April 2, 2017 at Corey Beach in Blue Point. Credit: Jennifer A. Uihlein

Last Sunday’s Blue Point-Bayport Lions Club Polar Plunge brought together two warmhearted Long Islanders who don’t mind the cold.

As a student of Bay Shore High School, Dennis Sinnott Sr., now 72, used to walk to his wife’s house every morning before class began.

Judy Sinnott remembered, “He’d barely have a coat on with snow on his head and we’d say, ‘Is it cold outside, Dennis?’ And he’d say, ‘No, it’s not cold.’”

Sinnott, who now lives in Holbrook, went on to work jobs that required him to remain outdoors in any kind of weather, whether he was painting or pumping gas with fingers numb from the cold every winter.

Patchogue resident Richard May, 59, often swims laps at Corey Beach -- where the polar plunge took place -- during windy autumn months. In fact, he prefers it that way.

So is it any wonder that these swimmers were the last ones to leave the 41-degree water?

“I think my heart is pumping pretty good, so I should be fine,” said Sinnott, prior to the plunge.

It seems that Sinnott can’t help but stay active. Between skiing at Belleayre last week, traveling to Ireland with his son this Friday, and skydiving every year on his birthday, slowing down isn’t an option. And it was full-speed ahead into the chilly waters of Blue Point -- a feat that’s been on Sinnott’s bucket list for quite some time.

“I have no trouble keeping busy for an old man,” Sinnott said. “I’ll be 73 in August, but I still think I’m younger than I am.”

As the teenagers and parents with children around him cackled, screeched, and bolted out of the water within seconds, Sinnott glided across the ripples, treading and floating on his back without a care.

That’s where he met May, who had been floating and splashing nearby. They struck up a conversation, and remained in the water for just under five minutes. They ended up shaking hands and stepping out of the water together, but Sinnott surprised onlookers by turning around and taking one last dip on his own, just to ensure that he completed a full five minutes.

Sinnott and May were later told by the event's organizers that whoever had stayed in the longest would have won a $60 gift card to Sayville Running Co., but since this tie was unprecedented, a coin toss was suggested.

Instead, the men decided to split the gift card, and exchanged phone numbers.

"We did good!" Sinnott said, shaking May's hand again as they dried off.

So what's next for the new pals? "I’m going to go shopping with Dennis," May said with a smile. "I made a new friend."

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