2013-01-04 / Community

Rockaway Runs For The Waves In New Year’s Plunge

Photos submitted by Deborah Gifford, Joe D’Aleo, Dan Guarino and Rita Valley Tortorelli Photos submitted by Deborah Gifford, Joe D’Aleo, Dan Guarino and Rita Valley Tortorelli Hardy Rockaway residents rang in the new with four plunges into the surf on New Year’s Day.

Four separate groups, one on the beach at Beach 119th Street, another at Beach 146th Street and one each at Beach 126th and Beach 127 Streets, gathered to celebrate the coming of 2013 and carry on a long running Rockaway tradition. At exactly 12 noon the crowds at each beach set out at a run across the sand and into the frigid Atlantic waves.

By 11:30 a.m. carloads of people began filling Beach 146 Street, just off the storm ravaged shorefront. The atmosphere was festive as people of all ages, wearing a variety of winter coats, sweat suits, pajamas and bathing suits gathered on the beach.

Bob Fash, who arrived with family and friends, said he believed this once a year Rockaway event was started by two gentlemen named Owen Quinn and Pete Brady.

“I heard they used to do this on New Year’s Eve at midnight,” Fash said, who first started participating in 1996.

“A friend of mine invited me down. And I said, “Oh, that sounds interesting.”

Standing within sight of the many large beachfront homes battered by the storm, the message of Rockaway’s resilience and renewal resonated clearly as participants held aloft a paper banner reading “Rockaway Strong In 2013.”

Said Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder, who also enthusiastically ran headlong into the winter waves, “I’ve spoken to people who have told me, ‘We don’t even have houses, but we had to do this’.”

Police on hand estimated the Beach 146st Street crowd at 150-200 people, almost all of whom took the plunge.

More than 30 people took to the water at Beach 126th and Beach 127th Streets.

Observers at Beach 119th Street reported a crowd of approximately 50 people, again with most going into the water. One participant carried both the American and U.S. Marine Corps flag into the sharp winds along the beach.

Weather forecasts for New Year’s Day put Rockaway temperatures at a high of 41 degrees and a low of 28 with wind gusts between 23 and 31 miles per hour.

Afterwards participants at at least two of the sites hosted gatherings with food and hot drinks to which all were invited.

Noting the beach plunge has always been an informal event, this year amid the upheaval of Sandy, Bob Fash noted “we had to keep the tradition going.”

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