Come on in, the water's . . . frigid

A polar bear gives his blessing to Wildwood's plunge, top. In Seaside Heights, above, 5,000 took the plunge last year, raising nearly $1.3 million for Special Olympics.
A polar bear gives his blessing to Wildwood's plunge, top. In Seaside Heights, above, 5,000 took the plunge last year, raising nearly $1.3 million for Special Olympics. (Smith O'Keefe / Suasion Communications Group)

Folks are warming to the polar plunge, making a splash in a half-dozen Jersey Shore towns this winter.

Posted: January 13, 2012

WILDWOOD - Carol "Dee Dee" Clowry has been a Jersey Shore beach bunny all of her life. But she doesn't limit her sand time to the summer anymore.

On Saturday, she'll be among more than 600 people running into the ocean in Wildwood's fifth annual polar plunge.

Think she's crazy? Maybe, but she's not the only one stripping down (though in costume) and plunging into the winter waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The Wildwood event, which benefits the Special Olympics of New Jersey, is one of a half dozen similar plunges scheduled along the Jersey coast this winter.

"You're only really cold for about a half hour," says Clowry, 41, from Bellmawr, N.J., who is a Special Olympics volunteer.

Clowry has plunged in Wildwood since the event's inception in 2007. She says most of that first half hour is spent waiting for the signal to run en masse into the waves. While some people dive right in, she splashes around for a bit and then runs right back out.

"It's invigorating. It's exciting. You're out there for a great cause and with a great group of people. And then you realize how cold the water is," says Marc S. Edenzon, president of the Special Olympics of New Jersey, who admits that now he usually donates money to plungers who are raising funds for the event rather than jumping in himself.

The Special Olympics has been organizing plunges in New Jersey for more than 20 years. They started with an event in Seaside Heights. In 2011, it brought out more than 5,000 people and raised nearly $1.3 million. This year, that plunge will be held on Feb. 25.

Most, but not all, plunge events are fund-raisers, and all bring summer-sized crowds to what would otherwise be desolate weekends in beach towns. The event in Asbury Park supports the local Rotary club, for example, and the Long Branch plunge raises money for Camp Sunshine, for children with life-threatening illnesses.

Sea Isle City's plunge is going into its 17th year and turns the town into one big party. The event involves a costume contest and crowning of a king, queen, prince, and princess.

For non-football fans, there's Super Plunge Sunday at Brant Beach on Long Beach Island on Feb. 5, the same day as the NFL Super Bowl. It benefits the St. Francis Community Center and the Southern Regional High School Swim Teams. It's an alcohol-free event.

For first timers, Clowry suggests choosing a costume that gives you some kind of coverage (this year she's plunging as Captain America, wearing a hula skirt as part of her group's "Aloha-Vengers" theme), but don't opt for anything involving a wet suit.

"I did that my first year," she says. Never again.

While wet suits aren't exactly banned, they're frowned on because they protect you from the thing you're there to experience: a true, cold, polar plunge.

While the Wildwood event is smaller and younger than the plunge in Seaside Heights, Edenzon says it has grown exponentially, and it's expected that some day Wildwood, too, will see a "splash mob" of 5,000 people.

"It's incredible - the facility down there, and the support we've received," says Edenzon, referring to the Wildwoods Convention Center, which is the event's base of operations. He also says a kids' event will be introduced in the future.

If you're not up for a winter dip in the ocean, you can procrastinate all the way until Thanksgiving. The Special Olympics of New Jersey sponsors a Thanks for Giving plunge in Cupsaw Lake in Ringwood, N.J.


Polar Plunges

Saturday - Wildwood Plunge at 1 p.m., 45th Street Beach (near the Wildwoods Convention Center), Wildwood. To plunge: $100. Information: 609-896-8000, njpolarplunge.org.

Jan. 28 - Rotary Polar Plunge at 11 a.m., 4th Street Beach, Asbury Park, N.J. To plunge: $25, $10 for those age 21 and younger. Information: 732-531-4111 www.

rotarypolarplunge.

org.

Feb. 4 - A.J.'s New Jersey Polar Dip at 2 p.m., Avenue Beach Club, Long Branch, N.J. To plunge: $100. Information: 207-655-3800, www.freezinforareason.com/event/event.php?event_id=51.

Feb. 5 - Super Plunge Sunday at 1 p.m., 48th Street Beach, Brant Beach, N.J. To plunge: $30 before Jan. 31, $35 after; $15 for students if registering before Feb. 5, $20 after. Information: 609-494-8861, www.

stfranciscenterlbi.

org/special-events/

super-plunge-sunday.

Feb. 18 - Sea Isle Polar Bear Plunge at 2 p.m., JFK Avenue and the Beach, Sea Isle., N.J. To plunge: $25. Information: 609-263-3756, www.

lacosta-seaisle.com.

Feb. 25 - Seaside Heights Polar Plunge at 1 p.m., Sherman Ave. Beach (front of Aztec Ocean Resort). To plunge: $100. Information: 609-896-8000, www.

njpolarplunge.org.


Jen A. Miller is author of "The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May."

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