This New Year’s Day, many people will flock to the beach in order to participate in the time-honored tradition of taking the plunge into the Atlantic Ocean to ring in 2015.
On Jan. 1, the Town of Fenwick Island will hold the Fenwick Freeze at the beach just off Bayard Street.
Those who wish to participate may on the register day of the event, between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. The cost is $25 per person, and participants will receive a Fenwick Freeze beach towel. Everyone will run into the ocean at 10:30 a.m.
Now in its 11th year, the Freeze supports the Fenwick Island Lifeguard National Competition Fund.
Tim Ferry, captain of the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol, said the swim used to support both the beach patrol and Sussex County EMS teams but now solely donates the money to the patrol.
“With the success the beach patrol was having on the competitive level and sending more people to the championships — to the regionals and nationals — it got very expensive,” explained Ferry, adding that the national competitions switch from East Coast to West Coast each year. “It could be in Florida. It could be in California. It could be a very expensive trip.”
Ferry said the competitions are a great way for the guards to showcase their skills.
“We’ve been extremely successful,” he said. “For probably the last eight years we have been one of the top three teams in the country.”
The town council, town manager and beach committee have all been incredibly supportive of the patrol, said Ferry, for which he is grateful.
“The Town has supported us 110 percent in providing the guards with what we need to do our job properly and at the highest level,” he said. “The beach committee have been another integral part of the success of the beach patrol and the fundraising aspect… They’ve done just a great job in providing support for us. It’s been a team effort, and we couldn’t ask for anything more than what they’ve done.”
Ferry said approximately 150 people participate in the Freeze every year. Last year, six of his guards joined the crowd in jumping into the ocean.
“I think it’s a great way to support local causes and find a different way to ring in the New Year. It’s a good time for all.”
Ferry said he looks forward to seeing everyone at the Freeze and marking the start of the New Year.
“As soon as the Freeze is over, we’ll be looking forward to summer 2015,” he noted.
Soon after the Fenwick Freeze, the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce will commence the 19th annual Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos ocean plunge in Bethany Beach.
Online registration for the Eskimos event closes Monday, Dec. 29, at noon. Those willing to brave the chilly waters may check in or complete day-of registration from 7 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. at the registration tent on the bandstand, with a plunge time of noon.
The Bethany plunge raises money for the Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation (QRCF), the Chamber’s charitable arm, which provides “financial aid, resources and other assistance in support of programs, individuals and organizations” that enhance the entire community.
The event raises $3,000 to $5,000 annually for QRCF to donate back to the community.
“We’ve had anywhere from our largest group of over 600 plungers to 350. It’s really based on the time of the week that the holiday falls on,” explained Lauren Weaver, event and member relations manager for the Chamber.
Individuals can register as part of a team — commercial, noncommercial or student groups — and compete to see who will win the Iceberg Trophy awarded to the team with the highest number of participating team members. In order to participate, plungers may only wear bathing suits into the ocean — no wetsuits or street clothes.
“South Bethany has a team. There’s Team Neptune in Frankford,” said Weaver. “The Freezin’ Indians is one of our student groups. Of course, our presenting sponsor, Cottage Café — Team Cottage — they bring in the largest team every year, because they have all the festivities in the morning before the actual plunge.”
Weaver said the event draws participants of all ages, all of whom have a great time.
“You’ll see families come out and they’ll have shirts made or banners… A lot of people have different philosophies behind it. Some people run in and run out, other people kind of splash around in there. A lot of people look at it as a cleansing or a New Year purge. Other people think it’s really good for you.
“There’s a family from Fifth Street — they paddle up in their wetsuits and kayaks and do a countdown from the water. It’s a really good time.”
In conjunction with the plunge, the Hair of the Dog 5K/10K will be held New Year’s morning.
Those who wish to register for the run may do so that morning beginning at 7 a.m. on the bandstand. Walkers and runners with dogs may only participate in the 5K. People of all ages may participate, and more than a dozen awards will be presented following the completion of the races.
“It’s a great tradition, and we’re really looking forward to doing it again this year, especially in collaboration with the Hair of the Dog,” said Weaver, noting that joint registration is also available to those who wish to both run and plunge. “It’s just from one event to the next — it just flows. You can make it an all-day event or just do one or the other.”
Weaver said she hopes the event will be a success and that many residents and visitors will chose to ring in the New Year in Bethany Beach.
“Anyone looking to have fun that’s in the area and wants to start the year off right, come take a plunge in the ocean.”
For more information on the Fenwick Freeze, visit www.fenwickisland.org/index.aspx?NID=872 or call (302) 539-3011. For more information on the Exercise Like the Eskimos and Hair of the Dog, visit hairofthedogrun.com. All the events will take place rain or shine.