Balmy Day Drew Plunging Hordes

John Ryan Jr. thinks it’s “a great way to get baptized into the New Year.” Durell Godfrey

By Jack Graves
    A balmy day drew a record crowd to the New Year’s Day plunge at East Hampton’s Main Beach, as many as 800, John Ryan Jr., one of the event’s overseers, said.
    Colin Mather, the founder of New Year’s Day plunges here, in 1999, said that in Wainscott, following his annual 1.6-mile run from his Seafood Shop to the Beach Lane road end there at 2 p.m., he found “several hundred people on the beach . . . 75 went in.”
    While the air temperature was said to have been in the high 50s, the temperature of the water was a frosty 47. Yet most of the Main Beach attendees, perhaps as many as 400, plunged, said Ryan, who went in twice, the second time with fellow members of the Ocean Rescue Squad.
    “It was just as bad the second time as it was the first,” he said, in reply to a question.
    As to how much money was raised for the East Hampton food pantries, “we don’t know yet,” he said during a conversation Monday morning. “Last year, with 500 to 600 there, we raised $21,000, so this year’s figure should be higher.”
    A tally was still being taken, he added, to determine which of East Hampton High School’s classes had won the trophy that is to be given to the class with the largest turnout.
    The Toga Family won the costume contest, Ryan said, with Supergrandma (Doreen Tibbets) second and the Polynesians (Mark Tompkins and his sons, Carson, 8, and Milo, 5) third.
    Marikate Ryan and Carly Drew were the Sparkle Girls, Heather Metcalf was described as “an angry bird,” Vicki Lippman and Corrine Wizelius were a penguin and a polar bear, “and,” said Ryan, “there was this one guy who wore a ‘Phantom of the Opera’ mask with a lobster on his head.” Lora Nelson, who was said to have planned to wear a turban and a fur coat, showed up instead “with a wreathy tiara,” as did Judy Haselton and Francesca Freeman. Laura Otto was “a purple squid.” John Ryan Sr. wore, as is his custom, a plunger on his head.
    The official starter this year, East Hampton Village Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr., also plunged, as did East Hampton Town Councilman Dominick Stanzione, who was one of the judges of the costume contest. Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was there — “he always is at any event in which the Ocean Rescue Squad is involved,” said Ryan — but apparently demurred when it came to what Ryan has likened to an annual baptismal rite.
    Ryan added that, “contrary to what some people think, we don’t require that people jump in if they make a donation to the food pantries.”
    As for the number of those who did plunge, he said, “There wasn’t any space between the starting line and the Pavilion — it was all filled with people.”
    Many of the madcap participants, including the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter’s youth swim team, the Hurricanes, and the East Hampton High School’s boys swim team, were young, though there were some wizened participants also, among them an unidentified Santa Claus, sporting red suspenders.
    Undoubtedly, if there were a prize given out to the best-represented family, it would have gone to the Ryans, who sported three generations.
    Back to the Wainscott plunge, Mather said, in answer to a question, that “the Brazilians were there — well, I say Brazilians, but I don’t know for sure if they are. . . . At any rate, the Escola De Samba Boom drummers were great.”
    Afterward, the gathering, which raised money for Phoenix House, whose centers, one of which is in Wainscott, provide drug and alcohol abuse treatment, repaired to the Seafood Shop, where there was the Seafood Shop’s clam chowder, hot chocolate provided by Once Upon a Bagel, a Blue Duck cake, and Breadzilla’s Christmas cookies. space between the starting line and the Pavilion — it was all filled with people.”
    Many of the madcap participants, including the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter’s youth swim team, the Hurricanes, and the East Hampton High School’s boys swim team, were young, though there were some wizened participants also, among them an unidentified Santa Claus, sporting red suspenders.
    Undoubtedly, if there were a prize given out to the best-represented family, it would have gone to the Ryans, who sported three generations.
    Back to the Wainscott plunge, Mather said, in answer to a question, that “the Brazilians were there — well, I say Brazilians, but I don’t know for sure if they are. . . . At any rate, the Escola De Samba Boom drummers were great.”
    Afterward, the gathering, which raised money for Phoenix House, whose centers, one of which is in Wainscott, provide drug and alcohol abuse treatment, repaired to the Seafood Shop, where there was the Seafood Shop’s clam chowder, hot chocolate provided by Once Upon a Bagel, a Blue Duck cake, and Breadzilla’s Christmas cookies.