By Donald Wittkowski
It’s not something that the average, well-dressed man would normally need to know, but Joe Schneider says that you can still go swimming in the frigid ocean without having to worry about ruining your navy blue suit.
Schneider and his friend, Carl Wanek, emerged from the 38-degree water soaking wet Monday after taking their wacky, traditional New Year’s Day plunge off the Ocean City beach.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Schneider exclaimed, somehow maintaining a straight face.
Amused onlookers could hardly believe it when the two Ocean City men raced into the water wearing Donald Trump caricatures as part of their comical costumes that, yes, included Schneider clad in a blue suit.
“Do they have a paramedic?” Kristin Coryell asked of Wanek and Schneider.
“I hope they have a psychologist, too,” quipped her husband, Mark Coryell.
The Coryells, of Warrington, Pa., were in Ocean City for a holiday getaway. Their New Year’s Day plans had included participating in the madcap holiday plunge in the ocean that normally attracts thousands of self-styled polar bears to Ocean City.
Ocean City officials decided to cancel the annual event, known as the “First Dip,” fearing that the brutally cold temperatures and gusting winds could lead to frostbite or hypothermia for the bathers.
“I was both disappointed and grateful at the same time,” Mark Coryell joked of the city’s cancellation of the plunge, which relieved him of having to jump in chilly water.
The Coryells settled on a sedate stroll on the snow-encrusted Boardwalk and some shopping to celebrate their New Year’s Day.
Even though the official event was scrubbed, Wanek and Schneider were determined to take the plunge anyway. The air temperature was a bitter 20 degrees when they hit the water at 2 p.m.
They even dressed up for the occasion in President Trump-inspired costumes. The positioning of the Trump caricatures between their legs was not meant to demean the president, but to show their support for him.
“We’re riding on his shoulders,” Schneider explained. “I’m proud that I voted for him.”
Without missing a beat, Wanek replied, “So am I.”
The blue suit that Schneider wore for the plunge was complemented by a Trump-esque red tie, white shirt and a baseball cap embossed with the president’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
“I wore the same suit last year when I took the plunge,” Schneider said. “I got it dry-cleaned and it was undamaged. You can certainly go swimming in the ocean in a suit without ruining it.”
Wanek, meanwhile, used his costume to poke fun at the sometimes friendly, sometimes testy relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pretending to be Putin, Wanek wore a sweatshirt emblazoned with a hammer and sickle, a symbol of the Russian Revolution and the former Soviet Union flag.
“I’m Putin riding on Trump’s shoulders,” Wanek said, laughing.
Wanek noted that he got the hammer-and-sickle sweatshirt out of a collection of odds and ends that had been owned by his late father-in-law, Les Oliphant.
The 43-year-old Wanek is a carpenter. Schneider, 45, is an insurance broker. Friends since 2009, the two have made the New Year’s Day dip an annual tradition.
Before taking the plunge Monday, they relaxed with some friends and family members at Wanek’s “Beer Garden,” a combination garage and pseudo sports hangout behind his Wesley Road home.
Accompanied by their entourage, Wanek and Schneider marched down to the beach next to the Ocean City Music Pier. It was the same beach for what was supposed to be the official, city-sanctioned plunge before it was called off.
As Wanek and Schneider prepared to jump in the water, they were joined on the beach by three other veteran plungers, twin sisters Sydney and Jamie Apple, 18, of Newtown, Pa., and their friend, Christina Strobel, 18, of Boyertown, Pa.
Dressed in bikinis, the Apples and Strobel screamed as they headed for the water and then dove in, completely submerged. Almost immediately, they raced back out and wrapped their shivering bodies in towels.
“It feels like I’m standing on pins and needles,” Jamie Apple said of the stinging cold.
All of the plungers insisted that the water temperature didn’t really bother them. The bone-chilling air, once they emerged from the ocean, was what proved painful, they said.
“It wasn’t so bad in the water,” Wanek said. “It was the coming out that was so bad.”