OCEAN CITY — A bride and groom and hundreds of others entered the ocean in fairly orderly fashion Friday afternoon as they participated in the town’s annual New Year’s Day rite known as the First Dip.
Under leaden skies and with the wind whipping 15 mph out of the northwest on an uninviting 42-degree day, newlyweds Lindsay and Mike Feeley, both 33, of Morris Plains, Morris County, hit the 53-degree surf attired in wedding garb suitable for the plunge. Kyle Porter, 23, of Canton, Georgia, and Annie Byron-Goslin, 23, of Woodstock, Georgia, did their swimming wearing sunglasses emblazoned with “Groom” and “Bridge to Be,” respectively.
For the Feeleys, who were married at the Ocean City Yacht Club after midnight, leaping into the ocean marked their second big plunge Friday. And it may not be the last, both said.
“We’re thinking about coming back,” Lindsay Feeley said between bites of a bagel as her spouse handed out wedding cake at the Music Pier.
“The plunge was challenging,” Mike Feeley said. “It was challenging to go farther than waist deep.”
Why go waist deep at all? “If you’re going to do it, go big,” Lindsay answered.
Porter and Byron-Goslin, accompanied by Abbie Byron-Goslin, 31, of Hickory Flat, Georgia, did the dip to preserve a family tradition. Started eight years ago by the Byron-Goslins’ aunts, Sally Forshaw, of Egg Harbor Township, and Grace Lamboni, of Salisbury, Maryland, the family plunges annually and indoctrinates a new member every year. 2016 marked Abbie Byron-Goslin’s maiden swim.
“I think it brings good luck,” Porter said of the event, in which he has participated three times. The first time the couple got engaged, the second time they graduated college and the third time precedes their planned April 16 wedding by a few months, he said.
Ed Sheppard, 32, of Ocean City, and Brian Mulford, 30, of Marmora, also were repeating dippers, making their fifth and second forays, respectively, into the frigid sea. They were attired in baby blue and hot tangerine tuxedoes in homage to the movie “Dumb and Dumber.”
“That’s how I feel right now,” Sheppard said, referencing the movie title.
He and Mulford were delivering on a pledge to take the plunge because their campaign to collect 100 gifts for Toys for Tots was successful. Because they exceeded their goal by nine toys, the men kept their promise to their benefactors by plunging into the ocean in outfits that were vintage Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
Against her will and common sense, Dawn Schaffer, 47, of Coopersburg, Pennsylvania, was on the beach swaddled in a bathrobe, waiting to enter the ocean for the second New Year’s Day in a row.
“I was hoping for one and done,” she said. “But I gave in to peer pressure.”
Terry Sloyer, 50, of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, was too sick last year to participate in the plunge, so he convinced Schaffer and her husband, Todd Schaffer, 48, along with Tammy Rodenbaugh, 45, of Quakertown, to take the frosty dip with him this year. He also enticed Karen, 49, and Steve Godown, 51, of Quakertown, to join the group for the first time.
Bill Elliott, founder of the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers, said the group reached its goal of raising $20,000 at the event.
“We’re encouraged to do this again,” said Elliott, whose nonprofit partnered with the First Dip for the first time in 2015 and raised $10,000. “This is such a natural for Ocean City. It’s all about family and fun. Our son would have liked this.”
Elliott’s son John was killed in 2000 by a drunken driver.
“We have a positive message,” Elliott said. “Be safe.”
Ocean City’s First Dip was one of several polar plunges. Atlantic City, Brigantine and Ventnor also held their New Year’s Day rituals. Most of the events raised money for charities.