For most people, jumping in the water during the winter would only be the result of losing a bet. But Long Islanders have proven to be a hearty bunch, happily polar bear plunging in frigid temperatures. Sometimes they do it for glory, but more often than not they do it for a good cause.
Meet newsday.com's Long Island polar bear plunge all-star team.Newsday.com will be out and about at Long Island plunges to induct new members. Do you know an all-star plunger who isn't here? Have an update on one of our past inductees? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael Sherwood, center, has participated in the annual Northport Polar Bear Swim at Steers Beach for the past three years, and always brings a sign he makes specifically for the event.
Sherwood, who said he was always "the kid who sat in the back of the classroom drawing cartoons," described the annual plunge (which usually takes place on New Year's Day) as his favorite way to begin each new year.
Natalie Sandy, a longtime advocate for Special Olympics Long Island and four-time polar plunger, celebrated her belated 40th birthday by diving into the frigid water at the 5th Annual Town of Oyster Bay Polar Plunge at Tobay Beach in Massapequa on March 10, 2018.
Sandy had originally planned to dive into the chilly waters off North Hempstead Beach a week earlier to raise money for the group, but the event was cancelled due to high winds.
Kevin Fowler, of Lindenhurst, is no stranger to the annual Camp Sunshine "Freezin' for a Reason" polar plunge -- a Long Island tradition that's called Amityville (and briefly, the Town of Huntington) home for the past decade. Fowler has made the plunge every year, and he always does it with a smile.
"I've plunged when it's been snowing, when it's been negative three degrees," said Fowler, seen here at the 2018 plunge. "This year, it's gorgeous. It'll be a breeze."
Alec Baldwin was among the New Year's Day revelers who participated in a polar bear plunge into the ocean waters off Beach Lane in Wainscott on Friday, Jan. 1, 2016. The event raised funds for Phoenix House, a rehabilitation facility in East Hampton.
John Conenello and Cathy Kourtis
Newly engaged John Conenello, 34, of Mastic Beach, and his fiancee, Cathy Kourtis, 32, of Massapequa, at the Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash on Feb. 4, 2018. He popped the question after they got out of the water, and, as you can see, she said yes!
Rev. William Patrick Edwards
The Rev. William Patrick Edwards of St. John's Episcopal Church in Southampton emerged all smiles after taking the polar plunge fully clothed at Coopers Beach in Southampton on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017.
Plunge rescue squads
East Hampton Ocean Rescue volunteers help out John Ryan Sr., at the annual East Hampton Polar Bear Plunge at Main Beach on Jan. 1, 2018. Rescue squads from throughout the Island gear up and hit the water at polar plunges to make sure the frigid fun stays safe, often forming a perimeter a certain distance from the shore to guarantee no one goes out too far.
Television journalist Chris Cuomo -- left, dressed as The Flash -- and Village of Southampton Mayor Mark Epley at Coopers Beach in Southampton Village, preparing to take part in the 13th annual Human Resources of the Hamptons Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016.
Former Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley, shown here in 2015 while still in office, both hosted and participated in his local plunge. Every year, Epley and his family coordinated costumes and took a shivering dip together for charity.
Team 'Molar Bears'
Team "Molar Bears," from left: Craig Miller, Ryan Miller, Justin Miller, Nicholas Miller and Chris Miller, relax before taking part in the Town of Oyster Bay Polar Bear Plunge at Tobay Beach on March 18, 2017. When Nicholas Miller plunged alone in 2015 at the town's plunge -- which raises money for Special Olympics New York -- he was the largest fundraiser for the event at 8 years old. He returned to the water in 2017 with a team -- including his 9-year-old cousin, Justin, who now holds the same honor as Nicholas. Their team was called The Molar Bears because Nicholas's dad, Chris Miller, is an orthodontist at Shulman & Miller Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontics in Plainview. The Massapequa family collected $9,840, the most out of any team. Out of that, Justin, who has cerebral palsy, was named top fundraiser with $7,840, to go along with Nicholas's $2,000. "It's good because I'm doing this for him and he's here with us," Nicholas said of Justin, who went into the water with his father, Craig Miller, holding him.
Leeana Costa, left, of Rocky Point, along with the Karlson family of Wading River, from left, Gary, Elliot, Sarah, and Owen, at AHRC Suffolk's annual Polar Bear Splash held on Saturday, April 22, 2017, at Bay Shore Marina. Owen Karlson turned 10 in 2017, and those double-digits meant something special: His parents allowed him to raise funds and participate in his first-ever Polar Bear Splash. Owen's little brother Elliot has been attending the Saul and Elaine Seiff Educare Center of AHRC in Bohemia. "My brother has special needs," Owen said. "And I felt like I really wanted to raise money to help him and the organization that helps him." Owen raised more than $2,000 for the cause.
After years of being an events organizer, Jennifer Cantone, of Coram, an associate director of development for Special Olympics New York, took the plunge for the first time during the seventh annual Town of Brookhaven Polar Plunge on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016. "I've spoken to so many people about taking part, so it makes sense that I finally did it," she said.
On March 2, 2013, Joseph Gallagher of Levittown, his son, Brendan, and wife, Maria, plunged with 130 friends, raising $25,000 on behalf of Brendan, who has autism, at North Hempstead Beach Park in Port Washington during the town's annual Polar Plunge to benefit New York Special Olympics.
Tramar Pettaway of Southampton is a veteran Long Island polar plunger (seen here at a 2006 plunge in his hometown), taking part in double-digit assorted plunges in his career to support local charities. His advice for anyone considering trying a plunge for the first time? "Put Vaseline on your legs and feet before you jump in!" says Tramar, "It keeps you warm, actually. It will trap the warmness inside."
Tom Tait may be from the Hudson Valley village of Wappingers Falls but his wife and her family are Sag Harbor locals, so he agreed to take part in the Frosty Plunge held at Windmill Beach in Sag Harbor as part of the village's sixth annual HarborFrost Festival held Feb. 27, 2016. While everyone around him shivered and complained about the 42-degree water and 34-degree air temperatures, he stood chatting in swim trunks, and even waded back into the water after the plunge to pose for pictures. "Anything worth doing, you have to do it all the way," Tait says, "and don't just do it, rock it."
Carly Fitzsimons of Commack, shown here wearing a Viking helmet, takes part in the 2014 New Year's Day Polar Plunge at Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park, benefiting the Kerry Rose Foundation. Established by Carly's family in memory of her sister Kerry Rose, the nonprofit advocates for fire-safety awareness for on- and off-campus housing at colleges across the country.
Kerry Rose Fitzsimons died at the age of 21 in a 2012 fire that destroyed a house not equipped with a fire sprinkler system.
Carly Fitzsimons says her sister would definitely have joined her in the frigid water if she was still alive: "She was a big scaredy cat, but she would definitely have done it, and she would have loved to see everyone here together ... she would be proud."
Patty Spector, Sue Cirillo and Monique Homer
Patty Spector of Ronkonkoma, Sue Cirillo of Huntington and Monique Homer of Hauppauge, dressed as "The Three Charitable Elves" at the Long Beach Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016. The charitable trio, who have been friends since high school, made a pact to take part in one charitable event per month in 2016.
Scott, Sean and Katie Nidermaier
Sean Nidermaier, of New Hyde Park, has battled a serious neurological disorder and was one of many lucky beneficiaries of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. To give back, Sean, his siblings, his parents Scott and Katie, and close friends made it a point to take the plunge at Long Beach every year to support Make-A-Wish. Sean and his parents are shown here at the 2016 plunge.
Chris Gommlich of East Northport, shown here at the Long Beach Polar Bears Super Bowl Splash held in Long Beach on Feb. 7, 2016, promotes businesses by attaching their logos to his "Running Suit Guy" outfit.
Kevin Meyers, shown here in 2014, became known to many polar bear plunge attendees simply as the "polar bear suit guy." Meyers, of Southampton, took it to next level by wearing his polar bear costume every year at the Coopers Beach plunge.
Terry Carr, of Islandia, showed up at the St. James Polar Bear Club plunge in 2015 ready to check an item off his bucket list. When he found out the plunge had been canceled, Carr, then 65, was the only person brave enough to take the plunge at Long Beach Town Park in Nissequogue that day. "Well, I'm going in anyway," the undeterred solo plunger said as he jumped into the 40-degree waters.
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.
Jack Sullivan and Frank Ozol
When Jack Sullivan, right, got married in 1996, he had no idea he would be taking a second plunge nearly two decades later. Sullivan wore his wedding tuxedo when he dove into the water at the 2014 United Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County Polar Bear Plunge in Oyster Bay. Frank Ozol, Sullivan's fellow UCPN chairman, joined him in formal attire. "I've had a very blessed life," Sullivan said, acknowledging he would be taking another trip to the dry cleaners afterward. "Why not do something for people less fortunate than me?"
Charlotte Lathrop, left, with friend Michaela Asaro, thrashed through the water in search of her cellphone at the polar bear plunge at Hempstead Harbor in Port Washington in 2014. As emergency officials and onlookers shouted for her to leave the dangerously cold waters, Lathrop said through chattering teeth that she had to find her phone. Turns out a Newsday photographer clad in a wetsuit found the phone, which was protected by a waterproof case -- and yes, Lathrop said it was still working.
Ben Campbell, right, shamed many of his fellow swimmers at the 2014 Shelter Island Library Turkey Plunge. Campbell, then 11, was among the first to dive into the water and was the last person out, lingering for nearly 10 minutes. "It tickled, it was so cold," he said afterward. "But the longer I was in there, the warmer it got; I don't know why. But it wasn't so bad."
Brian Mott and Jimmy Mack
Brian Mott, left, and his husband, Jimmy Mack, were among the hundreds of Long Islanders to plunge into the Atlantic Ocean at Coopers Beach in Southampton during the ninth annual Polar Bear Plunge to raise money for the Human Resources of the Hamptons' food pantry on Dec. 8, 2012. Mack has become a staple of the Southampton plunge. Every year, Mack has dresses in a mermaid costume, complete with fins, wig, high heels and accessories. This time around, Mott was dressed as a sea king.
Mack, left, and Mott, retired from plunging but still dressed their best for the 14th annual Heart of the Hamptons Polar Plunge at Coopers Beach on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. While they stayed out of the water, they raised funds and took photos with admirers.
Peter Vielbig lost his wife, Gail, to congestive heart failure in 2014. Months later, Vielbig and a dozen family members dove into the water in her memory at the fifth annual Shelter Island Library Turkey Plunge on Nov. 29, 2014. Gail Vielbig played an important role in starting the annual Shelter Island plunge tradition. "Gail was just full of great ideas," Peter said on plunge day. "This plunge is one of them, and ultimately an extension of her."
Vielbig hands out kale grown at Sylvester Manor Educational Farm during the eighth annual Shelter Island Library Turkey Plunge at Crescent Beach on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2017. The kale made quite the scene, as some plungers took their stalks and charged with them into the icy waters.
After years of sending other people to cover polar bear plunges, newsday.com Long Island editor Josh Stewart finally made his plunge debut at the Town of Oyster Bay Polar Bear Plunge held at Tobay Beach on March 18, 2017.