Every Super Bowl Sunday since 2012 has been nothing short of average for me. I’m a pseudo sports fan who only succumbs to the chaos of fandom when the Giants or the Mets are doing miraculously well, which, as of late, has been a rarity.
But this year was different. My father convinced me to do the Polar Bear Plunge. I wasn’t too anxious to accept his offer since I’d plunged six years ago — the last time the Giants competed in the Super Bowl. But the hype to go willingly into almost below freezing waters wasn’t nearly as high.
That was until I charged into the waves.
Reality started to set in a few days prior to the game when we printed out a pair “hold harmless” agreements. The first time around I was reluctant to read the fine print because I was 16, and therefore I was invincible. This year, being older and wiser, I took a moment to scan the waiver, which didn’t help my high-strung tendencies.
And then came the jeers from my peers. I informed my close-held friends and coworkers about my decision to subject myself to possible frostbite.
Are you crazy? Yes, absolutely.
What’s wrong with you? Do you have a couple of hours to hear the list?
You could always just donate money to the cause. Well, where’s the fun in that?
As the day of reckoning approached, my heart quickened with fear every time I thought about running into the ocean. But I pacified myself. This heart racing, nerve tingling, breath depriving feeling was familiar, and not a result of the numbing waters ahead.
Among other things, I learned how to run into the ocean from my father — with fearless strides, the kind that inspire envy in those who hold back from enjoying every insane pleasure of life.
My mother dropped us off at the boardwalk entrance on Riverside and Broadway. As we made our way to the beach, I took note of the weather (a conscious effort to convince myself the dip wouldn’t be too dire). The air was dry and mild, but still sent the slightest chill down your spine. The wind was minimal, but still carried a heavy, salt-laden scent into your nose. The sky was cloudy and gray, but the sun still struggled to make an appearance.
To keep with tradition, despite our better judgment, we wore Giants jerseys to the plunge. After we picked a spot on the beach, my father looked at our fellow plungers’ feet, and made a snap decision to brave the water without footwear. “I want to do it the right way,” he said. Being my father’s daughter, I followed suit, unprepared for the icy sands that greeted the bottoms of my feet. There was no going back now.
I stood facing the ocean, right on the border where the sand meets the shore, taking long, focused breaths. I smiled in anticipation, waited a couple of beats, and then took off running, fearlessly striding, into the waves.
My feet became numb during the initial steps into the swell, then a breaker hit my thighs, but I fought to move deeper into the blue. My running became trudging under the weight of the water, and another breaker hugged my stomach. I was all but an icicle at this point, and it was hard to think about anything but taking the final step — plunging underwater.
The limbo between the breakers and the oncoming waves was a perfect place to perform a saltwater baptism. I quickly lunged at a breaking wave, and fell gracefully, backwards, into the tide.
I resurfaced without a minute to spare. I felt deprived of my senses, as if the cold had frozen each one of my nerves for a hint of a second. Then they all screamed, in unison, “run back to shore!”
During defrost, I thanked the Universe for keeping the wind chill at a minimum and the temperature at a balmy 45. And then I plunged two times more. Because despite my frozen extremities, my panting chest, and my brain questioning its own sanity, I needed more of that heart racing, nerve tingling, breath depriving feeling — because where’s the fun in not feeling alive?
Alyssa Seidman is the reporter for the Sea Cliff/Glen Head Herald Gazette.