Some people start their New Year with a health-kick. Or a work-out spree. Maybe a resolution to cut back on spending. We go swimming in the ocean. And this year we did it on a clear Sunday morning at a temperature of 21 degrees F.
For the last 6 years, this dive has been a tradition, a polar bear plunge of our own you might say. Most years we actually do it in late December, sometimes just before Christmas or just after. We drive down to Rehoboth Beach early in the morning. It’s usually on a weekday, and the 2-lane roads winding through the brown frosty farms are empty, as is the beach once we get there. I love the retreat of winter months by the sea.
We head to Rehoboth Avenue, driving to the end for our first glimpse of the flat infinity that awaits us. It’s always cold – there’s no getting around that – but some years looking out at the ocean, we think is this really a good idea? maybe we should come back next week instead….
But no one ever said it’s a good idea to jump in the ocean in the dead-middle of winter. That’s not why we do it. We are chasing a rush, a feeling of exhilaration. Even the breathless run back to the car, lungs stinging with every inhale – there’s something about it that draws us back every time. There have been years when we go in twice, dragging our bodies out and then hurtling them right back in again.
This year Allie went in a second time. Jennie’s hands were so numb after the first plunge that they couldn’t hold onto anything. And my excuse was my barefoot run back to the car after the first dip – I mistakenly thought it would be better to get back sooner to what little warmth there was rather than take time to pull on my Uggs. My feet literally felt like they were going to fall off, those hundred meters never felt so long.
We stayed overnight at the Delaware Inn on Delaware Avenue this time. The alarm I set never went off in the morning, but we made it to the beach by 8. The only person in sight was a man walking his dogs along the shore. We stripped in the car to just our shoes and coats over our swimsuits, and made our way down to the sand. I despise being cold, and if I were to stand on that sand long enough, I probably wouldn’t go in the water at all. Even in the summer I have a hard time taking the plunge. So I use my “lifeguard technique”: I pretend someone is drowning and I have to save them this very second. The technique works – in both summer and winter. And at least in the winter, the icy water keeps my mind off my feet pounding the painful stones on the ocean floor.
We were in the sea for maybe 2 seconds, and out again. On the drive back to the Inn, the tingling of the cold eased up and the warm shower brought back feeling to my toes. For the next couple days, I had an itching in my throat and felt a cold coming on – but it was completely worth it.