As polar plunges go, this year’s was one to remember.
“My brother is a surfer, even he said the other day he couldn’t stay in this water, it’s 33 degrees,” one plunger told a reporter seconds before a shot rang out, indicating it was time to do the unthinkable – brave the frigid, February ocean.
The annual event, on the beach in Seaside Heights, benefits Special Olympics New Jersey and draws tens of thousands of participants every year. This year, more than 5,300 people were expected to take a dip.
For 21 years, the plunge has taken place every February in Seaside Heights, save 2013, when it was moved to Long Branch since Seaside was still recovering from Superstorm Sandy. The event has come a long way from the first plunge, when just 85 people took a chilly dip in the ocean.
The event has become one of the largest of its kind in the country, and this year, participants from as far away as Alaska came to participate, organizers said.
Plungers donned costumes ranging from embattled news anchor Brian Williams, to pirates, to vampires, to grown men dressed as high school cheerleaders – all to have some fun, break the winter doldrums, and help raise money for more than 24,000 athletes to participate in the Special Olympics across New Jersey.