On January 29, 2023, day one at Chewonki, I completed my first-ever polar bear plunge. Having only before this day swam in water on a warm summer day, I felt unprepared for the plunge to come as it was nearly 20℉ outside. The long walk to the waterfront, across ice, and through the trees gave me perhaps too much time to rethink my initial decision of taking part in this plunge. And yet, I knew that I wanted to start off the semester strong: by taking a risk and going outside of my comfort zone. I took a final moment to take in the view of Montsweag Brook’s frozen water and then, without letting my thoughts overwhelm me, I grasped hands with a stranger. On the count of three, we dipped under the freezing cold water together. When I was once again able to meet the water’s surface, I immediately felt the rush of cold air meet my skin and struggled to catch my breath. Nevertheless, I did it. Walking back up the icy path to the cabin, I felt a great sense of accomplishment and the reward of pushing myself. I realized that by taking risks, I can surprise myself with what I am capable of, and found the polar bear plunge to be a great way of starting off this new adventure at Chewonki.
From that day forth, I have made a promise to myself to complete every Saturday polar bear plunge. The hours leading up to the plunge are often nerve-racking and yet I have never left a plunge regretful about starting my day off with a dip in Montsweag Brook. From dipping in the murky slush of snow after a stormy night to taking my time as I walk on rocks and through the mud, every plunge varies and yet all invite me to reconnect with myself and the land.
There is a unique power to completing the plunge. Moments after dipping into freezing cold Maine water, I find myself radiating with joy and anticipation for the wondrous day to come. With each plunge, I am reminded that I can find warmth in the midst of winter. It allowed me the time to look back on my experience at Chewonki thus far with pride in the friendships that I have created and new adventures that I have embarked on and find myself reminded of the importance of dipping into the unknown with confidence.
Now, you might be wondering: How Can I Complete THE ULTIMATE Polar Bear Plunge?
- Bundle up (sweatshirt and sweatpants are my go-to plunge fit)
- Wear water shoes/old sneakers
- Be sure to pack a towel
- Get ready to RUN to the nearest shower in sight
- Remember to bring a camera to capture the moment:)
Maya Benitez Longo, Lincoln School, Providence, RI