Pat Sullivan, of East Hampton, participates in the East Hampton Hurricane...

Pat Sullivan, of East Hampton, participates in the East Hampton Hurricane Swim Team's annual polar bear plunge on New Year's Day.  Credit: Gordon M. Grant

As winter approaches, Long Island offers a unique and exhilarating way to embrace the cold and awaken your senses: the polar bear plunge.

This invigorating tradition has gained popularity over the years, attracting thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts alike. Besides the thrill, participants often engage in these plunges to raise funds for charitable causes like the Special Olympics New York, which offers four plunges on Long Island between November and March.

“It’s all about ‘freezin’ for a reason,’ that's our motto," said Rebecca Hoffmann, Special Olympics New York's director of development. "We have participants of all ages coming out to raise awareness for the athletes of Special Olympics New York.”

The first plunge of the season took place in Mount Sinai on Nov. 18, but three more are planned in Northport, Port Washington and Massapequa.

“They are all very cold, that’s part of it, but it’s to come out and promote inclusion for everyone," said Hoffman.

Katy Saas, a Special Olympics equestrian, agreed: “It’s very cold, but it’s all for a good cause," she said.

Anyone attempting a cold-water swim should take the proper safety precautions. But if you're seeking an unforgettable adventure this winter, consider taking the plunge.

“Check it off your bucket list," said Hoffman. "Once you do it, once you're on that beach, 3,2,1, you’re going in the water, and it’s all for a good cause — it makes it worth it.”

WHERE TO GO

Special Olympics New York has three upcoming plunges planned on Long Island:

  • Dec. 10 at 10 a.m: Frank P. Petrone Crab Meadow Beach, Waterside Road, Northport
  • Feb. 3 at 10 a.m.: North Hempstead Beach Park, 175 W. Shore Rd., Port Washington
  • March 23 at 11 a.m.: Town of Oyster Bay Beach, Ocean Parkway, Massapequa

For more information or to register for a plunge, visit https://bit.ly/3R6pxs9

The Long Beach Polar Bear Club will also hold a plunge on Feb. 11 to benefit Make-A-Wish Metro New York. Activities begin at noon, with the plunge at 1:30 p.m. Visit https://bit.ly/47H9eri to register.

SAFETY

While a polar bear plunge can be an exhilarating experience, it's crucial to prioritize safety. Here are a few precautions to keep in mind:

  • Consult with a healthcare professional if you have any underlying health conditions that may be affected by cold-water immersion.
  • Always plunge with a group or join an organized event to ensure safety in numbers.
  • Wear appropriate attire, including a wetsuit or layers to protect against the cold.
  • Listen to your body and exit the water if you experience any signs of hypothermia, such as shivering, confusion or difficulty breathing.

COST

Charity plunges are generally free to join, but participants are encouraged to fundraise for the cause.

MORE OPTIONS

If you can’t make the dates above, or would like to make cold-water swims a regular part of your routine, consider plunging with the North Fork Bears. The group meets weekly at 10 a.m. Sundays at various locations on the North Fork. All are in the Greenport/Orient vicinity. You can learn more by checking out their Instagram account, @northforkpolarbears.

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