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Dafydd Snowdon-Jones of Orient leads the group, which meets up each Sunday all year long. Personally, he swims daily. Only pausing for particularly bad weather. (Credit: Christopher Fenimore)

With cellphone cameras rolling, the North Fork Polar Bears walked as a group into the water at Youngs Beach in Orient Sunday morning.

At nearly 50 degrees, it was an unseasonably warm March morning, the kind where the average person might forego their winter coat for fall coverings on their way to run errands.

But in Long Island Sound that morning, Dafydd Snowdon-Jones had just taken the temperature of the water, which measured a brisk 37 degrees.

Peacefully, with minimal small talk and the steady wind being the loudest sound around them, Mr. Snowdon-Jones and some of his fellow Polar Bears slowly stepped into the water. As the group entered beyond their waists and up to about their necks, the group began to paddle in a westerly direction. Moving at their own individual paces, they appeared still somewhat connected as they swam not unlike ducks on a pond together in one direction and then back.

After about seven minutes they were done. Another Sunday swim in the books.

“When you go into the cold water, it really does call you to your senses, literally, like it is such a sensation on the body, that you are fully in your body and you’re fully feeling the cold and the nature and presence, like it can really take your breath away, which I love,” said Patricia Garcia-Gomez of Orient, one of about 25 members of the informal group, seven of whom took the swim this past Sunday.

“It can really take your breath away.”

Patricia Garcia-Gomez

For some, year-round swimming is a regular practice, and something Ms. Garcia-Gomez, Mr. Snowdon-Jones and others in the group experience daily.

For Ms. Garcia-Gomez, it started more than two years ago, following an artists in residency in Greece. There, the Aegean Sea called to the multimedia artist, and daily swims became routine, influencing both her spirituality and her art. When she returned to New York, she embraced the cold weather swim. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she would go on daily runs through the woods at her former home near Dam Pond, through to a private Sound beach for a swim and a run back.

“That became like my sanity practice,” she said. “And then winter came and I just didn’t want to stop.”

She eventually was introduced to a virtual swim buddy, someone she connected with online to talk about their daily swims and share safety information with. They pushed each other to keep swimming until Thanksgiving.

“Then we made it ‘till Christmas, then New Year’s and February and March,” she said looking back at her first year of cold-weather swimming. “Before you knew it, it’s like there was no way to stop doing it because I discovered this thing that I love so much.”

Meg McGinnis of Southold is having a similar experience right now. An episode of the Netflix series “Goop Lab” featuring famed “Iceman” Wim Hoff sparked her own curiosity about the health benefits of cold temperature exposure, and so this New Year’s Day she set out for a swim.

With her 7-year-old daughter Una running the camera, she walked into the water and spent merely seconds immersed in it before popping up and walking back.

“Say something,” Una said as her mom returned to the shoreline. “Happy new year,” she replied.

And it has been.

“Going alone is almost like a spiritual experience,” Ms. McGinnis said. “It’s very, it’s a church, you know, you’re surrounded by nature, you’re in the beautiful sea, whether it’s calm, whether it’s choppy, it’s just, it’s really something.”

But she quickly learned she didn’t need to go it alone. So while she continues on her daily swims by herself — even seeking out a freshwater creek during a recent ski trip to Vail, Colo. — Sundays are when she reconnects with the Polar Bears. In late February, the informal group, which communicates through a chat on WhatsApp, had its highest single-swim turnout with 15 brave souls entering the water.

Mr. Snowdon-Jones leads the group, going out early each Sunday morning to identify the location for that day’s swim, which most often is done at Truman’s Beach. Weather conditions play a role in where they’ll swim.

“More so than the temperature of the air, I’m looking at the wind,” he said.

The cold breeze can lower body temperature — and most of the swimmers have gear for that: boots, gloves and caps for those going underwater — but, of course, wind also impacts the current. If the Sound is choppy, they’ll opt for a swim in the bay.

Each gathering lasts only about 30 minutes. They spend fewer than 15 minutes chatting before a seven- to-10-minute swim. They then drive off and head home to warm back up.

“Really you get all the physical benefits in the first one to two minutes,” Mr. Snowdon-Jones said. “The health effects are minimal beyond that.”

That adrenaline hit the swimmers get can last for hours, giving them more energy than in the past, they said.

“It’s like drinking coffee in the morning,” Mr. Snowdon-Jones said.

Improved sleep is one of the big benefits the members all seem to agree upon. And, of course, it gets the blood flowing well.

Ms. McGinnis said she took a “gnarly tumble” during that recent ski trip.

“After my next swim, I was fine,” she said. She recognizes that some reports contradict the health benefits of cold weather exposure, which is having a bit of a moment, but she believes it truly works for her.

Ms. Garcia-Gomez said the benefits for her have been the satisfaction that comes with routine and the inner drive to do something challenging along with the sensory pleasure of a cold-weather swim.

“You can go in with a lot of worry and there’s a certain point when it just kind of all moves into the background, and you’re very, very present,” she said. “It’s beautiful and powerful. It’s like doing another form of meditation.”