2006 Polar Bear Plunge

Posted 3/06/06
by Jane Kashlak

When the wind is whipping out of the west at 15 to 20 miles per hour and the water temperature is hovering just 8 degrees above freezing, the last thing any sane person would want to do is go for a dip in the ocean.

That's what we thought as we stood on the Jefferson Ave beach in Wildwood Crest, bundled up to our eyeballs. It was a mighty chilly March day.

Every year we stake out our position on the beach, the better to get photographs of these polar bear plungers. Don't try try to shoot anyone running into the water, I learned the first year. You'll only get their backs.

So we jockey for a little piece of dry sand - close enough to the water but not too close to get wet.

No one fires any starter pistols. All of a sudden a barrage of humanity hurtles past us, wearing little more than their bathing suits.

This year, because of the extra chilly temps, a few wore little ski hats with their bathing attire. Two gentlemen dashed into the ocean wearing shirt and tie, minus the long pants.

No one stays in the water too long. Remember, it was 42 degrees on Saturday with a water temperature of 40 degrees.

The spectators on the beach, all wrapped tightly in their winter parkas, marvel at the plungers' braveness.

It's s no ordinary cause that brings everyone to the Jefferson Ave. beach each March.

The polar bear plunge commemorates a local hero - Andrew Alameno. Alameno was a former Wildwood Crest lifeguard and one of the 911 World Trade Center victims.

Each year, a lifeguard chair stands empty in the merciless March winds, to remember Andrew. And each year, the polar bears raise money for a scholarship fund in Andrew's name.

And, each year, although we've seen it before, we are drawn to the event. When you know why the polar bears are braving the elements, dashing into a 40 degree ocean suddenly makes sense.

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