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Half a dozen dipped into Point Lookout waters on New Year’s Day

A half dozen people braved the waters off

A half dozen people braved the waters off Point Lookout during the annual Polar Bear plunge on Jan. 1, 2018. Credit: Barry Sloan

Buddy Casimano looked out over the twinkling waters of the frigid Atlantic and shook his head.

On this New Year’s Day, with the thermometer stuck at 14 degrees and a wind zipping by like a frozen knife, he would not be joining the others for the annual first-of-the-year plunge.

“I normally would be the guy who would go,” said Casimano, bundled in boots and layered in thermals. “But this is too crazy.”

But not too crazy for a handful of other Point Lookout denizens who for years have gathered each New Year’s Day to stroll together to the water’s edge, strip down to nothing but swimwear and bare flesh, and plunge into the ocean at Civic Beach.

“It’s just so invigorating. It’s a great way to start the new year,” said Kevin Halpin, who has taken the plunge every year for the past 12 or 13 years. “I think this is the coldest one yet.”

Known as Polar Bear plunges, group winter swims are commonplace at locations across the United States and Canada.

Often used as fundraisers, one of the largest takes place each Super Bowl Sunday farther west on Long Beach.

Some 250 people showed up Monday for the 17th annual East Hampton Polar Bear Plunge, which raises money for the East Hampton Food Pantry.

But some folks decided it was just too darned cold.

A plunge planned at Gurney’s resort in Montauk was canceled. Another coordinated by Boy Scout Troop 410 in Northport was rescheduled for a presumably more balmy March 18. Scout organizers apparently didn’t have the heart to ask bathers to walk across a sheet of ice that stood between them and open water.

It was so cold at Point Lookout that windswept snow stacked against a sign posted at the edge of the dunes. The sign warned — somewhat comically given the obvious disincentives — “No swimming.”

Undaunted, at the stroke of noon, six bathers linked arms, scampered across ice-caked sand that lined the high-tide mark, and plunged in. Within a half-minute or so, all were retreating back to dry land, arms folded in self embrace.

Tom Hug, a local real estate broker, stood with a crowd of well-wishers, and looked on from within the relative warmth of a long black coat, boots and a knit cap. He said his doctor warned him to avoid taking part in foolish things that might saddle one with a case of double pneumonia.

“Usually there are a lot more out there,” said Hug, who said the Point Lookout rite usually draws five or six times as many takers. “I don’t blame them for not going today.”

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