Tag Archive | "frosty plunge"

Chilly Dip

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web_HarborFrost 2011_6428 copy

By Andrew Rudansky


Diving into the icy cold waters surrounding the East End during the frosty winter months is not the most comfortable way to spend an afternoon. But take it from me, just because plunging isn’t the most relaxing experience, doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable and rewarding in its own right.

As the self-proclaimed, resident expert in winter swimming at The Sag Harbor Express, I have personally taken chilly jaunts into the bays and oceans off of Long Island many times this winter. A recent convert to winter swimming, my first plunge was the result of a bar bet this past November. But losing that bet might have been the best thing for me.

The number two in the country Alabama Crimson Tide was hosting the number one LSU Tigers on November 5 in a college gridiron classic that was to become a preview of this year’s BCS title game.

In an effort to make the game more interesting, a bet was wagered with the loser made to strip down and take a dip into the chilly November waters.

I said “Roll Tide,” but after a brutal 9-6 Alabama loss the tide rolled me as I splashed about in the dark waters of Noyac Bay.

Without a doubt I am an awful gambler, and since that chilly night in November I have bet my way into the chilly waters on close to 20 different occasions. What I did not expect was the benefits that my poor gambling skills, and the subsequent plunges, would have on my health.

Winter swimming has been practiced for years across the globe. Many in Finland enjoy the occasional therapeutic ice swim, members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club have been taking winter dips for over a century, and the devotees of the Orthodox Church in Russia celebrate the feast of Epiphany with a quick dunk beneath the ice.

“I think overall, if you don’t have any serious medical conditions, this swimming [in the winter] is generally pretty safe,” said Dr. Anthony Knott M.D.

Dr. Knott said he is a great proponent of cold water plunging, adding that he jumps into the waters near his office on Main Street, Montauk on a weekly basis. He is such a fan of the practice that he has recommended the practice to some of his patients for the associated health effects.

“It reduces stress hormones, it increases your white blood cell count, bolsters the immune system, and it increases your blood circulation by increasing the blood thinning enzymes,” said Dr. Knott. “Also, from a mental health point-of-view, it clears the mind.”

He said that those with heart conditions and serious asthma should use precaution when plunging, as the freezing temperatures could cause complications with either condition.

This Saturday, February 11, the entire town will get the opportunity to experience the exhilaration of winter swimming at this year’s HarborFrost celebration. The Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps will be hosting their second annual “Frosty Plunge,” a charity event intended to raise money for the EMT ambulance fund.

The plunge is set to occur at 3:30 p.m. next to the windmill, near Long Wharf; the corps is asking for a $25 donation to participate.

For those people taking part in the upcoming “Frosty Plunge” let me first say that you never get used to the shocking experience, however, there are some tips to help ease into the experience.

Surviving the icy water requires a mix of informed preparation and healthy amount of willpower. With plenty of both, any dip into the bay can be an invigorating and not-to-painful experience.

For those looking to take the plunge, there is much to do before even stepping foot on the sands.

Coming prepared is of the utmost importance, so bring a bag with a warm hat, gloves, a comfy sweater and plenty of dry towels, the more the better. Most importantly make sure to bring a pair of sandals or water shoes, as the cold sand can be the worst part of any plunging experience.

This year, Phao will be offering hot soup at the beach, and the Sag Harbor Gym will open its doors for the use of its showers for the plungers. Take advantage of both after getting out of the water, and drink as much hot cocoa as you can get your hands on. Getting as warm as possible after the plunge is important to avoid mild hypothermia, a risk that Dr. Knott said was possible if someone is exposed to prolonged, cold temperatures.

As for willpower, a plunger’s state of mind is extremely important before getting into the water. It is a challenge to ignore every iota of human instinct about self-preservation, and hurl your entire body into the freezing cold water.

“When you are standing there on the beach you ask yourself ‘why am I doing this,’” said Andrew Ward, co-founder of the Shelter Island Polar Bear Club and winter swimming enthusiast.

Ward and the other members of the club jump into the waters off of Hay Beach, Shelter Island every Sunday at 12 noon, starting each winter on January 1.

“Obviously this is not for everybody,” he said, “a lot of people don’t like feeling uncomfortable.”

The actual plunging should be approached like tearing off a Band-Aid. It is best done quickly, and with little hesitation.

“You just have to start running,” said Ward about plunging, “and then you have to just pull the trigger.”

HarborFrost, now in its second year after a highly successful inaugural showing, is a winter festival meant to bring the residents of Sag Harbor and the surrounding hamlets together.

Hosted by The Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce, HarborFrost is a time for residents to express their love of Sag Harbor, as well as their acceptance of the winter season they are forced to endure.

Of all the many events at this year’s festival, and there are many, the one that I won’t be missing is the “Frosty Plunge.” Hope to see all of you there.


Tiffany Scarlato

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Tiffany Scarlato

By Kathryn G. Menu

The lifelong Sag Harbor resident and former member of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees talks about offering herself up as one of the brave souls participating in The Frosty Plunge at Windmill Beach during this weekend’s HarborFrost, provided she can raise $1,000 to support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

So why support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps this way? Why not join as a volunteer?
I can’t join. I am too chicken. My good friend Denise Schoen, who is a member of the corps, and I once traveled to France and England together. When we were in France someone was hit by a car right in front of us and Denise, of course, ran towards the guy lying in the road and I ran away from him. She had been asking me for years to join, and I told her over and over again, ‘I can’t, I can’t.’ And she would say, ‘Yes, you can.’ After that day, she agreed, ‘I can’t.’

A number of organizations and volunteer groups have felt the affects of the downturn in the economy in recent years. In terms of the ambulance corps, how has the recession impacted their bottom line?
I know donations through fundraising for the ambulance corps is down 25 percent this year and they need a new ambulance, which is one of the reasons I decided to do this. A lot of people don’t realize much of what funds the ambulance corps is private donations.

Leading up to the event, are you preparing for the plunge? Is there training involved?
No. I am going to put my bathing suit on and hope for the best. I have never done anything like this before. I usually don’t put a toenail in the water until July. I feel like it is better if I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, so I have decided not to worry until I wake up on Saturday morning and my husband turns to me and says, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ My son honestly thinks I am nuts. I will have some support though. My 14-year-old niece, Daja Scarlato, is going to do it with me.

So bikini or wetsuit?
I think I am going with a one-piece bathing suit. I actually already have it picked out and it is ready to go. I did make some grand statements at The American Hotel this weekend that hopefully no one picked up on. For example, that if I raise $5,000 I will wear a bikini.

You launched this campaign on Facebook, and by spreading the word to friends in the community. Why do you think people are so apt to support you in this endeavor? Is it for the ambulance corps or just to see you freeze your butt off?
I think it is probably a bit of both. I am hoping more people do it to support the ambulance corps, but I think there is some secret part of people who are doing it because they would like to see me freeze my butt off.

How much, approximately, have you raised so far?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I am not sure if some people are sending checks directly to the ambulance, but I do have a lot of verbal commitments and a lot of people who said they will bring cash by the office before the plunge or even money to the event. I do know that Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen said he has collected $500.

What is your game plan for the day of HarborFrost? How will you mentally prepare and will alcohol be involved?
I am going to prepare myself with lunch and a couple of Guinness at The Corner Bar.

And afterwards?
I am headed back to The Corner for more Guinness. Depending on how cold I am, it might be more than a couple.

This is the first year for HarborFrost, although organizers hope it will become an annual Sag Harbor tradition, alongside HarborFest. Do you see your role this year as being one that could become a tradition as well?
We will see how much money we make for the ambulance corps and how I feel after this year’s plunge about doing it again next year. I will definitely participate in HarborFrost in some shape or form next year. I love that we have events like HarborFest and now HarborFrost — it’s one of the things that makes Sag Harbor special. I am happy the plunge has created some excitement about the event, because I think until recently that was kind of lagging a little bit.

How important is having events like HarborFrost to Sag Harbor, from an economic perspective, but also as a community event?
I hope it has an economic impact. I know a lot of restaurants are participating with a $20.11 prix fixe menu and I do believe the fireworks will draw people into the village — that and hopefully that a bunch of lunatics are jumping in the water at the village beach.
It’s a difficult time and a difficult time of year, so I think this is also just about bringing people together. I feel like I can barely watch the news these days, there is so much going on, it sometimes feels like the world is falling apart. It will be nice to have a community get-together with so much turmoil in the world. I think people take comfort in that, and will come to HarborFrost for that reason alone. At least I hope they do. I don’t want to freeze my butt off for no reason.

Sag Harbor Village seems to be awash in volunteers, from those who serve the ambulance corps to the fire department and local not for profits. As a lifelong resident, why do you think the village is seemingly immune to the kind of apathy we see elsewhere?
I think it is because we have good people here. It is really that simple. I think people want to be a part of Sag Harbor, keep it beautiful, vibrant. The people who live here love Sag Harbor, and we don’t have the kind of issues going on here that you see elsewhere that can sidetrack people from that. Here, people drive down Main Street and they ask themselves, how can I be a part of this community. It is really as simple as that.

HarborFrost will be held on Saturday, February 5 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with The Frosty Plunge taking place off the village beach next to Long Wharf at 3:30 p.m. Hot soup will be provided by Phao Thai Kitchen, and hot showers at the Sag Harbor Gym.