Fenwick Island ready to bring the ‘Freeze’ to the shore

Coastal Point • File Photo: The Fenwick Freeze creates a splash.Coastal Point • File Photo: The Fenwick Freeze creates a splash.Good news, Fenwick Freeze fans! This year’s freeze — technically a dip in ocean waters whose temperatures are hovering in the mid-40s — will be 90 minutes later.

That means New Year’s revelers will have a bit longer to drink some coffee and pull their swimsuits out of the bottom of their dressers. This year’s swim will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 1. Swimmers will gather on the beach at Bayard Street, according to Rebecca McWilliams, chairman of the town’s Beach Committee.

McWilliams, who has organized the swim since its inception 13 years ago, said although Fenwick’s winter swim might not be as big as those in neighboring beach towns, its charm lies in its simplicity “It’s kind of a local thing,”she said. “It’s the same people that do it every year.” McWilliams said many of the 150 or so swimmers have participated with their families since the very first one.

Preregistration for the Fenwick Freeze can be completed from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 31 at Fenwick Island’s town hall. The fee for preregistration is $20 per person. Swimmers can also register the day of the swim at the Bayard Street location, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., for $25. Each swimmer will receive a commemorative long-sleeved t-shirt.

For the past 12 years, proceeds from the swim have benefitted the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol, and this year is no exception. Beach patrol captain Tim Ferry said the funds help the 30-member lifeguard squad with a number of activities, including local, regional and national lifeguard competitions.

Ferry said the funds help defray the costs of travel, lodging and registration for the competitions, which can be as far away as California. Ferry, who has been recovering from shoulder replacement surgery, said he is happy to be able to “start things off” at the swim, as he has for many years.

In addition to the FIBP, Sussex County Paramedics will receive part of the proceeds from the swim. Ferry said the Fenwick Freeze is a “secondary event” to the town’s annual bonfire on the beach held during the summer season. About 1,000 people attend the bonfire event, Ferry said.

McWilliams said there “might” be a bonfire during the Jan. 1 swim, depending on weather conditions.

The swim itself is generally held no matter what the temperature or wind factor. McWilliams said the “swim” is actually a “dunk” in which most enter the ocean up to their knees and then run back out to waiting blankets and warm clothing. While she admitted the whole concept is a little nutty, she added that “for some reason, we keep doing it.”

For more information on the Fenwick Freeze, call the town hall at 539-3011. Entry forms can be downloaded from the town web site, www.fenwickisland.delaware.gov.