The air temperature late Sunday morning was about 27 degrees when Avalon resident Jason Malick and his friend, Lelané Rossouw-Bancroft. of Newark, Del, first slipped into the bay next to Malick's Avalon house.
The water, to say the least, was balmy in comparison - just about 38 degrees and the two swimmers, who were attempting to swim a mile and qualify for entrance into the International Ice Swimming Association, didn't have to contend with the wind chill.
To qualify for the association, swimmers must swim must be at least one mile in length, with the water temperature at least 41 degrees or colder. Swimmers cannot wear a wetsuit or any other equipment to assist with floatation or warmth. They also must have recent records ensuring that their hearts are in working order and other extensive medical documentation.
The reason for Sunday's swim wasn't just about the physical challenge. Malick and Rossouw-Bancroft were trying to raise money for the autistic son of a friend and fellow swimmer.
Just before 11 a.m., three kayakers joined a Coast Guard zodiac with five rescue divers on the lagoon next to Malick's Avalon house. Malick and Rossouw-Bancroft each down to an orange buoy a quarter mile from the house twice. As Malick steadily swam in the choppy waters, his skin turned bright red and his hands dexterity. Near the end, Malick no longer could talk because his tongue and mouth were so numb. Rossouw-Bancroft was having trouble recognizing where she was.
By the time they finished - Rossouw-Bancroft in 35:51 and Malick in 42:21 - the swimmers were severely hypothermic, with body temperatures estimated to be in the upper 80s. Avalon EMS assisted the pair with warming up.
This was Malick's first attempt at a swim this cold, though he has participated in multiple marathon-distance swims, including one from Sandy Hook to Manhattan and another across the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Rossouw-Bancroft attempted a similar swim last month, but ended the swim after three quarters of a mile out of safety concerns.