By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
This was not what you would call a conventional, family-style celebration on New Year’s Day for the Haydens. Nor for any family, for that matter.
Kate Hayden was wearing a blue bathing suit, while her husband, Bryan, and sons Logan, 9, and Colin, 7, were bare-chested in water that was chilly enough to make their teeth chatter.
“It is freezing,” Colin blurted out.
“I feel really cold,” Logan added.
The Haydens, of Woolwich Township, Gloucester County, joined hundreds of other revelers on Ocean City’s Eighth Street beach to celebrate New Year’s Day in perhaps the wackiest way possible – with a plunge in 46-degree water.
“It was invigorating. We thought it would be a fresh, new start to the New Year,” Kate Hayden said of her family’s decision to take the plunge together to mark the arrival of 2022.
Ocean City’s First Dip, as it is known, is one of the most outlandish holiday rituals at the Jersey Shore. The family-friendly plunge turns the normally quiet winter beaches into a gigantic party scene – for just one day.
Many of the bathers charging into the frigid surf dressed up in zany costumes to make the experience even more outrageous. Floppy hats, green wigs, plush bathrobes and comfy pajamas were some of the popular outfits Saturday.
Mariah Burkholder, of Lancaster, Pa., however, was wearing only a bathing suit. She looked as though she was getting ready to lounge on the beach during a warm summer day. But then she thought about the water temperature.
“It is so cold. My goodness, that is freezing,” Burkholder exclaimed before she even tested the water.
Unlike some of the people who tentatively tip-toed into the ocean, Burkholder plunged into the water to get soaking wet when she did go in. Afterward, she draped herself in a sweatshirt and towel for warmth.
“It was good. I would do it again. It wasn’t bad at all. But I can’t feel my legs, though,” she said.
Derrick Williams, of Ocean City, checked out the water temperature and decided it was a “perfect day” to do the plunge.
Williams also was unfazed by the drizzly and foggy weather that descended on the Jersey Shore for the holiday. By the time the plunge started at 2 p.m., heavy gray clouds loomed overhead, dumping intermittent rain. But the air temperature was a relatively mild 52 degrees.
“It’s a great day,” Williams said matter-of-factly. “The temperature is warm. It’s a great day to take a plunge. Why not start the year off by doing something different, something zany and something fun?”
Williams was joined by two of his friends from Allentown, Pa., Courtney and Ark Wazny, who are married. Courtney said she and her husband made the two-hour drive from Allentown to Ocean City specifically to take part in the plunge.
“I’ve always wanted to do it. We drove all the way from Allentown so we could be here,” she said.
However, Janice Williams, Derrick’s wife, was having none of it. She adamantly said that she had no plans to jump in the water.
“I’m holding the towels,” she said with a laugh about her job during the plunge.