In spite of chilly weather and gloomy skies, some 300 charitable, and costumed, souls braved the frigid waters of Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett for the 11th annual East Hampton Polar Bear Plunge on Tuesday, New Year’s Day. The plunge moved from its usual home on Main Beach to Atlantic Avenue this year because of damage from Superstorm Sandy.
Also known as the “Food Pantry Plunge,” the yearly event benefits food pantries around East Hampton Town, including the East Hampton, Amagansett, Springs and Wainscott food pantries, as well as the Food Pantry Farm (run by EECO Farm).
“There were lots of people,” East Hampton Food Pantry Executive Director Gabrielle Scarpaci said, noting that the total number of spectators and plungers on the beach was at least as strong as last year, though it was much colder and darker so fewer people actually made the plunge. “The last two years it was in the upper 50s and sunny,” she said, noting that it was overcast and temperatures were around 40 degrees on Tuesday.
This is the third year East Hampton Food Pantry has been involved with the event, which is sponsored by East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue and the East Hampton YMCA. Each “plunger” paid $25 “admission” to jump into the icy surf.
A number of participants wore costumes, which were judged in a costume contest before the plunge. Winners were awarded actual plunger trophies in honor of the event.
Costumes included one person in a full polar bear suit, two fuzzy white polar bear bikinis, many Santa hats, a pair of cute little elves and one guy with a plunger on his head, among others.
The elves, Olivia and Hailey Duca, took home the gold plunger for their costumes and teens Marikate Ryan and Carly Drew won the silver plunger for their polar bear hats and matching bikinis. Joan Tulp of Amagansett—who was the oldest plunger at 80—won the bronze for her fur coat and “fancy glasses” getup.
After the plunge, participants remained on the beach and enjoyed hot soup and chili, hot dogs, cookies, coffee and hot chocolate.
East Hampton Food Pantry Chairperson Kathy Byrnes said the event attracted fewer plungers than last year’s 450, but many showed up to stand on the beach and support the courageous plungers. This year’s plunge grossed $9,100, which should bring local pantries about $7,200 after expenses. The 2012 plunge raised about $11,000. “I feel great about it. It’s a little lower than last year, but the weather was cold,” Byrnes said, noting that the event is growing each year. “There were so many people there, the feeling was so great.”