Sign up for our Newsletter

The North Fork Polar Bears on a a brisk 37 degree morning in March. Photo by Christopher Fenimore

Chances are you’ve heard about the cold-water swim craze that has reached waterside communities worldwide — including our very own on the North Fork. Proven to provide physical and mental health benefits, cold water therapy also has the ability to bring people together. We got an up-close look at the North Fork Polar Bears back in March when their community had only a short roster of members who met on Sunday mornings.

For our story, Grant Parpan joined the group at Youngs Road Beach in Orient to document a dip. “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,” he wrote.

Polar Bear Patricia Garcia-Gomez of Orient told Grant: “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.”

Meg McGinnis of Southold saw an episode of the Netflix series “Goop Lab” featuring famed “Iceman” Wim Hoff, which sparked her own curiosity about the health benefits of cold temperature exposure, and set out for a swim on New Year’s Day. “Going alone is almost like a spiritual experience,” she 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 Ms. McGinnis quickly learned she didn’t need to go it alone. Now, while she continues her frequent solo swims, Sundays are when she reconnects with the Polar Bears. 

The informal group has grown to over 80 bears — all by word-of-mouth and social media. Even J. Crew wanted in on the action, featuring the North Fork Polar Bears Club as micro-influencers and doing a merch collab with them. The club is currently working on plans for cold water retreat weekends with the Sound View, and has a plunge benefit planned for Sunday, Jan. 22, at 10 a.m. at Truman’s Beach, Orient. Proceeds will go to CAST. Follow the club on Instagram at northforkpolarbears for more details and to register. And if you’re looking to get in the water, DM them; they always welcome new members to dive right in, pun intended.