Freezing in 2014: Md. town’s Polar Bear Plunge

NORTH BEACH, Md. — It’s the new year and in this small Maryland town, that means it’s a day to rush into the freezing cold Chesapeake Bay for the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

More than 400 people stood in shorts and T-shirts, bikinis and bathrobes, some in Speedos, waiting for the countdown to charge into the 36-degree Fahrenheit waters of the Bay on New Year’s Day.

Few people could explain why they wanted to take part in the annual Polar Bear Plunge. But despite the wind — which made the temperature outside feel like 28 degrees Fahrenheit — they ran in, screaming all the way.

“Oh my God, I can’t feel my legs. It feels like pins in my skin,” one woman exclaimed, while gripping a towel around her shivering body.

It’s 10-year-old Sam Rodillosso’s second year rushing into the icy waters.

“My cousin forced me to do it. He said, ‘You’re not a man if you don’t do it.’ So I took it on,” Rodillosso says.

Some say surviving the plunge comes down to strategy.

While a few dozen undressed with five minutes to go, to get used to the cold, veteran plunger Sean McCleary says the key is not to linger in the water.

“I’m always the first one out. I run in up to my knees, dunk my head and run back out,” says McCleary, who has been participating in the plunge for seven years.

For everyone who decided to watch instead of jump in, there was hot chocolate along the boardwalk, a small bonfire on the beach and a community tailgate nearby.

But most people at the event were there for one reason only: to dive in.

It’s a brisk way to ring in the new year, but for better or worse, it’s the tradition in North Beach. One these residents say with quivering lips, they are fond of.

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