By TIM KELLY
They came. They saw. They plunged into a new year and decade.
Ocean City’s First Day at the Beach event was just about perfect, organizers and participants agreed.
With a huge crowd of onlookers, more than 500 brave souls who decided to usher in 2020 with an, ahem, invigorating dip in the Atlantic, and almost perfect conditions, what was not to like?
“I’m standing here, (shirtless, barefoot and dripping wet) and I’m not even cold,” said Jim Hudson, of Bel Air, Md., who took part in the event with his friend, Kevin Talley, of Newark, Del. “It was a great way to start the new year.”
They were hardly alone, event emcee Michael Hartman said.
“We had more than 300 preregistered,” he said, conservatively estimating 500-plus actually showed up for a frosty moment or two in the surf.
“There were well over a thousand people here (including the spectators),” Hartman estimated.
(Video courtesy of Martin Fiedler of Just Right TV Productions)
According to several weather and surf report websites, the ocean temperature of 45 degrees was about the same as the air temperature, also in the mid-40s.
In one of those Ocean City miracles, the sun peeked through cloudy skies and the gusty winds, which previously dropped the “feels like” temperature into the mid-30s, had subsided.
Suddenly, the beach just north of Moorlyn Terrace seemed to take on a warm glow at the precise moment the event was ready to start.
Despite such ideal weather, a disclaimer went out, with Hartman urging the plungers not to go too far out in the water, or to stay in for more than a moment or two.
Police, fire and EMS personnel were on hand, but were not needed.
“I’ve got 2 o’clock,” Hartman finally told the waiting throng of plungers, “so let’s do a countdown!”
With that, a horn and other noisemakers sounded and the sprint to the waves was underway.
Young and old, male and female, locals and visitors wrapping up Ocean City’s First Night events took part.
Cheers rang out from those watching on the beach and Boardwalk and alongside the Music Pier, where a DJ booth provided Hartman’s announcer podium and plenty of music.
The participants also made lots of noise with primal screams during the run-up, as they hit the surf and then retreated to waiting towels and blankets.
The whole thing was over in a few minutes.
Fire Department personnel asked John Lovett and Daniel Selekman, both 14, of Hockessin, and Wilmington, Del., respectively, to leave the water after the boys lingered a bit too long in the sea.
“We were the last ones out,” John said proudly.
“It was fine,” said Daniel. “After the first couple seconds everything went numb and you couldn’t feel anything. It was fun.”
Just prior to the event, plungers were equally stoked.
Tara Peak, of Egg Harbor Township, and Jack Krise, of Mays Landing, said they were at their third Ocean City First Day at the Beach and “probably 10th” cold water plunge overall.
“What better way to baptize yourself for the coming year?” Tara asked rhetorically.
In keeping with Ocean City’s family image, the Esterlys, of Reading Pa., took the dip together.
“We wanted to start 2020 by challenging ourselves,” said dad Jason, who dove in with wife Tara and sons Jace, 8, and 7-year-old Jett.
“The boys weren’t hard to convince,” Tara said with a wide grin. “We’re probably going to have to pull them out. When they are in the ocean, they want to play. They don’t want to come out. Temperature doesn’t seem to affect them.”
Representing the locals, best friends Michelle Einhorn and Christine Teeney, both members of Ocean City High School’s class of 1999, were doing their first New Year’s Day dive with kids Sienna Einhorn and Liam and Mia Teeney.
All five wore festive hats.
Teeney raised her hand when asked whose idea the plunge was.
“I hope we’re still best friends afterward,” she said, giggling.