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Embracing the cold on New Year's Day is a snap for these Northport swimmers

Participants run into the cold waters during the

Participants run into the cold waters during the sixth annual Polar Bear Swim at Steers Beach in Northport on Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. Credit: Jennifer A. Uihlein

Aimee Sumereau thought the punishing wind was the worst part -- until she got in the water.

Sumereau, 55, was among several hundred otherwise sane souls who dipped into the frigid waters of Northport Bay on New Year's Day as part of an annual fundraising plunge.

"I wanted to do something crazy," she explained, shivering as she pulled a bright orange towel around herself. "I was crying when I came out. I think that was the coldest I've ever been in my life."

The event, now in its sixth year, was sponsored by Northport's Boy Scout Troop 410 and the Northport Fire Department Smokeaters as a fundraiser for the Ecumenical Lay Council Food Pantry in Northport.

Jim King, 61, of Manhasset trudged up Steers Beach to a warming tent, clad in a bathrobe and clutching a towel to his chest after his dip. He proclaimed the experience -- with perhaps some understatement -- "a little chilly."

"My feet are numb," he noted.

As it turns out, the feet are the Achilles heel, so to speak, of determined polar plungers. "You feel the cold most in your feet," said Joe Aiello, scoutmaster for the Boy Scout troop.

Aiello should know. He's been doing the polar plunge every year since it began, albeit reluctantly.

"It takes about a year to forget," he said. "The more I think about it, the less I want to do it."

There's a protocol for how the plunge progresses: The bravest, who range in age from 8 to their 80s, amass at the water's edge before running into the bay at noon with whoops, hollers and even a few choice words that can't be printed in a newspaper.

"On average, we're in there about eight seconds," Aiello said. "It's like a rodeo ride."

Dan Stebbins, 18, of Greenlawn did the plunge along with more than half a dozen of his family members -- including his 70-year-old grandfather, Joseph Bosch.

"It was on my grandpa's bucket list," Stebbins explained, adding that the rest of the family decided to join him in support.

Bosch said he decided to do the plunge after years of watching the swimmers at Coney Island's New Year's Day event on television.

"It wasn't as bad as I thought," he said of the dip. "It was worse changing clothes" outside.

And now? "It's off my list," Bosch said.

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