For the Clayton family, the Blue Point Lions Club April Fools Polar Lion Plunge is a tradition. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts and a belated Easter celebration taking place on the opposite shore, their turnout of relatives was a bit low this year.
But that didn’t stop Blue Point residents Chris Clayton and his daughter Emily, 13, from rushing into the 45-degree waves on Sunday.
The seventh annual polar plunge is typically held in April, with its organizers seeking to raise money for the Guide Dog Foundation. The Clayton family has attended the plunge almost every year, so they know what to expect once their feet leave the dry sand and hit the freezing water.
“We’ve gotten the benefit of the sun from the last couple of years,” said Chris. “But especially this year with the extended winter...”
“Yes, today is extra cold,” his wife Kelly added with a laugh.
Their daughter Emily has been taking on the polar plunge for five years now, she estimates. Her sister Meghan, 15, came to cheer on her family but decided not to test the waters, although she has done it in previous years.
“I’m the kind of person who runs in, dips in their toes, screams and runs out,” Meghan said. “And then I realize I was being a wimp so I’ll go back in up to my knees and be like, ‘OK, I’m done now!’”
Emily agreed that she wasn't planning on staying in the water for very long, but she was excited. What she was looking forward to the most?
"Running out and putting on my shoes!"
Leading up to the big moment, Chris tried to keep his mind clear. He shared his strategy: “Don’t even think about it. Don’t think about what’s coming, don’t think about anything. Just show up and dive in.”
When the announcement finally came to go in, dozens of Long Islanders bravely faced the chilly Corey Beach water, all smiles despite shivers.
Meghan greeted Emily at the shore with a towel, affectionately referring to her as a “shrimp cocktail” while hugging her to keep her warm.
“I may never feel warm again!” Emily said with a laugh.
The family plans to continue their polar plunge tradition in the years to come.
“It’s a good cause, it’s great to support the Lions Club,” Chris said. “And it’s a lot of fun; the kids get a kick out of it. It’s just part of living by the bay.”