TODAY'S PAPER
40° Good Afternoon
40° Good Afternoon
Long IslandNassau

Long Beach polar plunge draws thousands on a super Sunday

The Long Beach Polar Bear Club hosted its Super Bowl Splash on a warmer-than-normal Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The event honored Paulie Bradley, a Long Beach boy who dreamed of becoming a lifeguard, but died in 1997 at 4 years old. Participants were expected to raise $500,000 this year, bringing the event's lifetime fundraising total to more than $6 million, according to an organizer. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

For a midwinter Long Island beach day, thousands of participants in the Long Beach polar bear plunge could do no better than this Super Bowl Sunday.

With temperatures in the mid-40s and a drizzle that held off until after the event, plunger Giddel Taylor, 45, of Brentwood was fine walking the beach in just his wet bathing suit and a lei after his dip.

“This is warm! Are you guys not warm?” he said to his friends moments after emerging from the water. “I recommend anyone, any age level, just do it.”

The Long Beach Polar Bear Club has hosted its Super Bowl Splash since 2000 to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The event honors Paulie Bradley, a Long Beach boy who dreamed of becoming a lifeguard but died in 1997 at 4 years old.

“The city of Long Beach and the polar bears go all out and support our mission which enables us to grant wishes to children with critical illnesses,” said Phil Lussier, president and CEO of Make-A-Wish for the metro and western New York region. “It’s outstanding. It’s another wonderful day here in Long Beach.”

Participants were expected to raise $500,000 this year, bringing the event’s lifetime fundraising total to more than $6 million, according to Pete Meyers, a co-founder of the polar bear club.

The relatively warm temperature may have made for a more pleasant plunge, but Meyers said about 8,000 participants and 10,000 spectators turn out for the event regardless of the weather.

“Last year was really cold, it was like 15 degrees, and we still had 20,000 people,” he said.

The air temperature was about 10 degrees warmer than the forecast, but the ocean was hovering around a chilly 36 degrees, according to Long Beach lifeguard chief Paul Gillespie.

Participants brought sweatshirts and wetsuits, and some packed toe warmers to heat up after the event.

Grace Casserello, 14, and her friend Maddy Catalanotti, 13, both of Seaford, wore a fleece unicorn and narwhal onesie, respectively, to stay warm as they waited to rush the frigid water.

Catalanotti, a fourth-time participant, said the moment one emerges from the water is the worst.

“Right after you come out and the wind’s, like, coming at you,” said Catalanotti, whose cousin Jacqueline died of brain cancer at age 13. Jacqueline met singer Britney Spears through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“What they did for her [Jacqueline], it was unbelievable,” said Catalanotti’s mother, Tina Catalanotti.

Although the plunge officially started at 1:30 p.m., some early birds hit the ocean at 11 a.m.

Wantagh’s Tom McCloskey jumped in while his daughter, Lily, recorded his plunge on her phone. While toweling off, McCloskey said they were heading to church afterward.

He slipped on a Moody Blues T-shirt while referring to the annual event as “Woodstock on the Beach.”

Evette Burset, 54, of Long Beach said mimosas helped her persuade her team, the Long Beach Ice Pops, to run into water for a good cause. They raised $500 for their efforts.

“I had everyone come to my house and plied them with liquid courage,” Burset said.

With Josh Stewart

Nassau top stories