What a difference a year makes.
Last New Year’s Day there were a few diehards, ready to plunge into an ice-caked hole in a frozen Greenwich Bay all for the sake of helping Mentor RI maintain the tradition of the Frozen Clam Dip and Ostaplunge. But even the diehards didn’t take the plunge as it was considered too risky. Several weeks later when the ice was cleared they jumped into the water.
This January 1, the temperatures were in the 50s and the winds were in the 30s with higher gusts. And there was a crowd of more than 200 participants plus another 200, if not more, family and friends to cheer them on. There had to be at least 30 dogs, too, although all were too wise to follow their masters into the water.
What makes this event unique is that it is the only New Year’s Day plunge featuring an obstacle course. That is the work of Warwick-based fitness company Laid-back Fitness.
Held at Goddard Park beach, participants chose between the “Frozen Clam Dip,” a traditional plunge directly into Narragansett Bay, and the “Obstaplunge,” a half-mile American Ninja Warrior style shoreline obstacle course that preceded the chilly dip. New to this year’s event, a Kids’ Ninja Zone
offered spectators open play options on Laid-back Fitness’ custom obstacles, including a mobile warped wall.
Bare-chested and wearing a clam hat Ryan McGowan, founder and president of Laid Back Fitness, divided the two groups of participants to go over the safety rules and then led them in the singing of the National Anthem. By then some dippers, who had already shed coats and towels were shivering despite the unseasonably warm conditions. They were ready to dash, and when they did it all happened in barely five minutes. The tide was low, meaning it would be a long run before the water was waist deep. But the wind-whipped waves were stomach high and it only was a matter of seconds before plungers were soaked and streaking to the shore for their towels.
Those who chose to do the Obstaplunge took to the course and as they completed the run, ran straight into the bay.
“The Frozen Clam Dip and Obstaplunge underscores what we teach at Laid-back Fitness: that a resilient mindset is the key to enduring discomfort and achieving goals beyond our comfort zones at the gym, at work or in life,” said McGowan. “Our hope is to instill a similar mindset in our participants, so that they feel inspired and equipped to conquer challenges of every kind in 2019.”
This was the largest turnout for the event since Mentor RI held its first frozen clam dip at Oakland Beach eight years ago. It was also the most successful in terms of fundraising, reported Jo-Ann Schofield, president and CEO of Mentor RI, raising about $12,500. It couldn’t come at a more critical time as Mentor RI is seeking to make up for the $107,000 lost when Warwick schools, faced with a budget shortfall, didn’t fund the program. Mentor RI kept the program running even though it has yet to raise the full funding.
“With participation from others, we can celebrate the New Year, the grit and determination it takes to overcome obstacles, the start of National Mentoring Month and the continuation of the Warwick Mentor program,” said Schofield.