Tag Archives: shark diving

Happy New Year: The Polar Bear Swim

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I figured the best way to kick off the new calendar year, hobby style, would be to head out to Coney Island for the annual Polar Bear Swim. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t more nervous about polar bear swimming than I was about sky diving. If followers might remember, I admitted to being terrified of the ocean in my surfing post a couple months back. While I overcame my fear that day, I suddenly felt an anxiety about jumping into waters that were no more than 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

In fact, I had nearly talked myself out of it as I paced back and forth across my apartment. “You can’t back out. It’s the first day of the new year.  You can’t back out. This is a game changer” In reality, it probably wasn’t, as I have a couple other hobbies also planned for later in the week, but I’d heard the encouraging phrase enough in television and film that it seemed appropriate–and it in fact was, as it got me out the door and into the cold.

“It’s not THAT bad out,” I tried to tell myself and I made my way to the subway. “At least it’s the warmest day of the week?” I giggled, and began to talk to myself again, “Oh Libs, it’s cold, get over it. You’ll be in your batman gear–and it’ll be fun…frigid…but fun.”

The good news is, I wasn’t doing the Polar Bear Swim alone. A producer that I have worked with in the past–who I also consider a good friend–had promised her son, Lucas, that he could do the Polar Bear Swim with me, after he came along to watch and help video my shark dive back in October. And I knew in the back of my head that he was much more excited about this than I was–so it was another encouraging reason to get my butt down to Coney Island and all my other body parts in the water.

I arrived at Stillwell Ave. around 12:15PM–just in time to meet up with my friend, her son, Lucas, and the rest of their family. While Lucas got dressed, his dad turned to me and told me how proud he was of me for what I had done this year. He then told me that Lucas had said he wanted to be like me and go on adventures. I couldn’t help but to smile. It was one of the greatest compliments I had received this year. It was in that moment that I began to let my anxiety about the cold water dissolve.

—That is until of course we were all on the beach slowly de-layering in unison with over a thousand of other individuals. “Brrrrrrrr.” I could feel even the lowest blowing winds running through my batman boxer briefs and cape.

I laughed out loud to myself. “What would Batman do?”

Suddenly, people started running past us. And then a burst of energy rushed through Lucas and myself as we both began to run toward the water. Before I even had a chance to look back, the cold water struck my ankles and my calves and my thighs and finally my waist.

“Holy crap, Holy crap, Holy Crap, Holy Crap-It’s cold.” I tried to censor my language around the 8 year old as I shivered through a number of virgin swears.

And then after about twenty seconds, I proclaimed that I was “All set,” and began running back toward the shore.

My brave companion followed, but the Atlantic Ocean beckoned to him and he made his way back out two more times before finally calling it a day. I watched as his dad continued to video with a giant smile on his face. I could see the pride in each of the family member’s faces as my polar bear teammate wrapped himself up in a towel. It warmed my heart–enough to take the focus off my endless shivers.

After changing into some warm clothes, Lucas turned to me and said, “Can we do more adventures this year?”

“Why…yes…yes we can, as long as your mom and dad say yes” I responded. And then I thought to myself, ‘And…as long as it doesn’t involve jumping into the ocean when it’s below 70 degrees outside, sans wet suit.’

His mom then told me that Lucas would be doing the shark tank at the aquarium, as I had done, for his 12th birthday. That’s about three years away, but there’s nothing wrong with planning hobbies in advance–at least in my opinion.

Cheers to another year!

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Special Thanks:
Abby, Jason, Lucas, & Natasha
Happy New Year!

Swimming with Sharks

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“How much will it hurt if someone gets bitten by one of these sharks?” I ask one of our shark experts.

“It would just feel like a lot of pressure–it wouldn’t be “painful” really. But people have to worry for infection after getting bitten by a shark.”

“How likely is it that one of us will get bitten?”

“Not likely.”

I continue quizzing our instructors for a bit, with a smile on my face. Part of me is joking around, and the other part of me is serious. I mean–I am about to jump into a tank full of sharks!

But the truth is–I am not scared at all. A lot of people ask me how I feel before I dive into the more extreme activities–and honestly–I feel fine. It’s the more intimate–1 on 1’s that get me.

To me, jumping out of a plane (as I am doing this coming weekend–pending hurricane Sandy doesn’t destroy my plans), or swimming with sharks–is much easier than sitting down–or standing with a good friend and taking a lesson. I am much more intimidated by the talent driven hobbies than I am by the thrill seeking ones. At first this may seem surprising, but because the number one fear in the world–over dying–is public speaking, I get it.

As humans, we want to be accepted, we don’t want to be judged poorly, and we want to succeed at everything we try–I know I do. But if there’s anything this project has taught me–it’s that the only person judging us most times–is oneself.

At this current moment, with sharks swimming below me–I really just can’t wait to jump in.

I pull on my wetsuit, throw on my snorkel, and wait for my cue to duck underwater and take a look. When I finally do, I am amazed. I can see sharks swimming in the distance. And then I spot one swimming our way. He looks like he’s smiling. I laugh to myself. The laughter causes a small leak in my mouth piece, so I surface momentarily–causing me to laugh at myself again. I readjust and reenter the water. A fish flashes across my face–and then another one. And then from the side I see a shark with a nose shaped like a saw swimming toward our way. He’s waving his serrated edges back and forth as if he knows food is near. Our instructors pull us back until the shark is out of harm’s way.

We go back below. A shark comes toward me, and I imagine speaking to it.

“Hello Mr. Shark.” I quote Little Red Riding Hood, “How big your teeth are, Mr. Shark”

“All the better to eat you with, my dear.”

I laugh to myself, this time keeping my mouth on my snorkel. “Good thing sharks can’t really talk–and good thing this isn’t the rising action in a fairytale.”

But it is–it’s the rising action in my project–or what we should just refer to as my life.

I sit back in the shark tank and continue to take in the view. I ask myself how I got here–in a tank full of sharks.

“Easily,” I answer. “All I had to do was say yes.”

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Camden Aquarium
1 Riverside Drive
Camden, New Jersey

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