Plunging into 2015

It’s the morning after your New Year’s Eve celebration. You just spent all night downing martinis and champagne, throwing back shots of who-knows-what and dancing on a confetti-covered floor. The countdown to midnight still echoes in your pounding head and there’s vomit in your handbag. Your crusty eyes open slowly, vision still swirling, and the first thought of the day pops into your head: “Time to jump into the freezing ocean half naked with a bunch of strangers!” No, really. This is what thousands of people do every year. Get ready for polar (or penguin) plunges!

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All across the coast, on New Year’s Day, hundreds of brave (and possibly insane) people rush into the near-freezing Atlantic. These winter warriors, fortified with courage (liquid or otherwise), don their most festive get-up and take the plunge for charity. Yes, it’s for a good cause! What other reason could people have for doing something so crazy? I find the thought unbearable (ba dum ch!).  Seriously, though. Writing a check or handing over cash isn’t nearly as exciting as freezing your balls off. I mean, I’d definitely pay to watch certain people yelp and shiver furiously in the cold. Does that make me a bad person? Not if I’m giving to charity!

There are, allegedly, some notable health benefits involved. Plunges build the immune system by ‘scaring’ the body into producing more white blood cells, therefore increasing resistance to foreign organisms. The activity is also known to increase circulation, burn calories and lower stress levels. But don’t use that as an excuse to overdo it on the sweets. Men are not known to enter the icy waters only to emerge with a glorious, newly formed six-pack. You’re still gonna have to hit the gym if you want to get in shape. Stop whining.

And, contrary to everything you’ve heard about swimming in cold water (holy shrinkage!), icy plunges have also been linked to improved sex lives. In the case of a cold dip, your body releases endorphins to take the sting away from your skin. If you think that sounds alarmingly close to the pleasure/pain barrier, you’re right! The two other common causes of endorphin release are pain and orgasm.

But this isn’t all fun and games and orgasms, boys and girls! Before you and your friends rush off to the beach, know that the plunge carries some potential health hazards.

When a body is suddenly submerged in cold water, the “cold shock” response occurs, leaving you gasping for air and unable to hold your breath. To prevent heat loss, the blood vessels near your skin constrict and blood rushes from your appendages to your core. This leads to stiffness, poor coordination and loss of fine motor activity. That could make it quite difficult to keep yourself afloat or grab onto a rescue line. That’s all on top of being hungover. You’re likely to be dehydrated and metabolically, not at your best. Proceed with caution, plungers.

Fortunately, the weather has been relatively mild for the winter season. Perhaps Jan 1 will be a balmy 60 degrees as opposed to the 20 degrees of last year. Don’t worry — your endorphins are still sure to kick in.

Eager to participate in the madness? See our center spread for a list of plunges going on in RI. Most places even offer hot chocolate and warm towels after the icy swim! That’s still not enough to get me in the water, though. I’ll likely remain curled up under my blankets ‘til noon. Have fun, you kooks!

 

New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge: The Newport Polar Bears invite anyone crazy enough to join them for a swim in the Frosty North Atlantic Ocean. All proceeds from the swim and at the after swim party go to A Wish Come True. Help raise money for a great charity. Noon, Easton’s Beach, Memorial Blvd, Newport. discovernewport.org
Freezin’ for a Reason: Annual Penguin Plunge: I guess plunges aren’t just for polar bears anymore! Hot soup and t-shirts available for registered participants. Prizes for top fundraisers. Hoodies for fundraising over $250. Costumes welcome, water shoes strongly advised. Registration at 10:30am, plunge at noon. The Andrea on Misquamicut Beach, 89 Atlantic Ave, Westerly. warmcenter.org
39th Annual Penguin Plunge: Waddle to the water, winter warriors! Registration at 10am, plunge at noon. Roger Wheeler State Beach, Narragansett. specialolympicsri.org
5th Annual Memorial Polar Plunge for Pop-Pop Dick Buscher: To benefit SRIV’s Meals on Wheels. Hosted by the Narragansett Lions Club. All participants will receive a free SRIV “Polar Plunge for Pop-Pop” towel to warm up with after the plunge. Registration at 11am, plunge at noon. Narragansett Town Beach, Narragansett. southernrivol.org
Block Island Plunge: Take the plunge and emerge victorious! 11am – 1pm, Hope Brown Center, Farnham Farm, Prudence Island. prudencebayislandstransport.com
Jamestown 1st Day Plunge: To benefit the American Cancer Society as well as the local Jamestown PTO. Prior to the plunge, there will be a Penguin Paddle and stand-up paddle board race. Plus, community band, fire pits, music and Paco’s Tacos. 11am – 12:45pm, Conanicus Ave, Jamestown. jamestown1stdayplunge.com
Frozen Clam Plunge: Join the RI Mentoring Partnership and Laid-Back Fitness to brave the icy cold waters and take a dip. Participants will receive a Frozen Clam tee-shirt (Who doesn’t want that?).The team with the most plungers will get the use of a heated tent at the event to change and dry off. 11am – 1pm, Goddard Park State Beach, 1095 Ives Rd, East Greenwich. mentorri.org
Annual Polar Plunge: Locals and visitors jump in the ocean to benefit the Block Island Lion’s Club. Hot chocolate is provided. Noon at Fred Benson Town Beach, 7 Corn Neck Rd, New Shoreham. blockislandinfo.com
4th Annual Pit Bull Plunge: Hosted by The Little Rhodie Bully Breed Club, Inc. C’mon … if your dog can do it, so can you! 10am, Warwick City Park, Beach Area, Warwick. dynamicdogtraining.webs.com
3rd Annual Punk Rock Plunge: Benefiting A Wish Come True. Typically noon, Location TBD. punksforaprincess.com
The RI CAN Polar Plunge: Jump (run, waddle, hop, roll, get dragged unwillingly) into the freezing waters of the Atlantic to benefit RI Center Assisting those in Need (RI CAN). After the plunge, celebrate at The Breachway Grill and warm up with pizza, cash bar and live music by Boat Cake. Registration at 11:30am, plunge at noon, Charlestown Town Beach, Charlestown. rhodeislandcan.org

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