‘Eskimos’ ring in 2020 with chilly challenge

Bethany Beach resident Bob Rush, at 80 years old, a veteran of more than a dozen Exercise Like the Eskimos New Year’s Day plunges, is helped back to shore by granddaughters Lizzie Rush and Katherine Rush. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

BETHANY BEACH — About two minutes before high-noon plunge time, Bob Rush Jr. tippy-toed ankle-deep into the Atlantic Ocean off the Bethany Beach Boardwalk.

“It’s cold …,” he kiddingly said with a smile.

Chilly perhaps, but not cold enough to deter the 80-year-old Bethany Beach resident from joining a handful of family members and several hundred others in a celebrated New Year’s Day tradition — the 24th annual Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos.

“I think this is No. 15, I guess!” said Mr. Rush, who missed one year to be with a family member who had relocated to England. “I skipped one year because I went to London.”

It was the 10th New Year’s Day plunge for Selbyville resident John Tiberi, who wore a Santa hat and white beard to usher the holiday spirit into 2020.

“This was warm, balmy weather compared to the weather at the North Pole,” said Mr. Tiberi. “I do this every year.”

A wave of participants — humans and a canine — head for dry land and warmth after taking the plunge in the Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos event New Year’s Day in Bethany Beach. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

The Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos and the Hair of the Dog 5K/10K Run, which staged its ninth annual event Wednesday, are a charitable partnership of the Quiet Resorts Charitable Foundation and the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.

The family-friendly events support local charities and students. Proceeds benefit local non-profits by providing grants and scholarships. The Delaware Center for Inland Bays is this year’s grant beneficiary.

The Cottage Café and Bethany Boathouse were the presenting sponsors of the event, which attracted permanent residents and visitors from beyond Delaware’s borders.

Glenn Shipley, left, of Bethany Beach and John Kunkle get fired up for their New Year’s Day dip in the Atlantic Ocean in Leo Brady Exercise Like the Eskimos event Wednesday. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Glenn Shipley, who grew up in Bethany and now resides in Pennsylvania, took the Exercise Like the Eskimos challenge for a second time. His first plunge was about 15 years ago.

“I’m going to start a new tradition and do the plunge … and then we’re going to go and get warm,” said Mr. Shipley. “It’s something fun to do and it’s for a good cause. It’s better than just being hung over. It’s good to get out here and wake yourself up.”

Joining Mr. Shipley was John Kunkle, a transplant from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley area who now calls southeastern Sussex County home. He says Mr. Shipley coaxed him into participating.

“Only because he (Glenn) was driving by in September and they were just talking about it. He opened the window and says, ‘You going to do the plunge with me?’ I said, ‘The plunge?’ He says, ‘Yeah, New Year’s Day.’”

“And I said, ‘Sure, why not,’” said Mr. Kunkle. “And here I am. And I love the ocean. That is why we are here. We are permanent (residents).”

There were some rookie Eskimos from York, Pennsylvania. One was Brigit Markel.

Sporting a Santa hat and beard, John Tiberi of Selbyville prepares to take the New Year’s Day 2020 plunge in the Leo Brady Exercise Like Eskimos event in Bethany Beach. It was his 10th time as annual participant in the event. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

“This is my first one, but I want to do many more after this,” said Ms. Markel. “I did walk outside in my pajamas this morning in bare feet, and stood in the sun for a little bit, trying to figure out how it was going to be …”

Actually, 2020 Exercise Like the Eskimos plunge conditions were rather balmy by Mr. Rush’s standards.

“Look at the temperature. And the water is what, probably in the high 40s. But it is an event,” he said.

One Wednesday, he was joined by his son and several grandkids.

“With our family it has become a New Year’s Day event,” said Mr. Rush. “Everybody in my family but a couple have done this plunge. It has become a family challenge.”

He offered tips to family, friends and future plungers and a trick to combat chill and cold.

“The other thing I do is I get my feet wet about a minute or two before,” said Mr. Rush. “It kind of acclimates you, so you know what you are getting into.”

The Exercise Like the Eskimos bears the name of longtime chamber member Leo Brady who brought the event from the Kiwanis Club, when it outgrew the Kiwanis and they could no longer handle it.