Sandy Hook Sunrise Swimmers brave freezing ocean temperatures before sunrise

When gyms and pools closed due to the pandemic this past spring, many people found it difficult to exercise.
But one group of residents from all over the New Jersey found a new place to work out - the Atlantic Ocean.
And even as the temperatures plunge, they have no plans to go back to the lap pool.
In the freezing predawn darkness of a Sandy Hook Beach parking lot, they arrive one by one. The Sandy Hook Sunrise Swimmers suit up for their daily swim.
The air temperature is 32 degrees and the ocean temperature is 49, but their enthusiasm is off the charts.
“In the ocean, you're just so free, and just it feels so, you're away from everything, you forget all your worries, all your troubles. You see the sun come up, and it's just so exhilarating,” says swimmer Suzanne Foy.
Rumson resident and longtime swimmer Curtis Gould organized the group in early April, when gyms and public pools were ordered closed.
As fall turns to winter, they have no plans to stop because what had been an emergency plan B has become its own cherished necessity.
The pools are open now, so why do they not go back to the pools?
“Well because we just love this venue. There's something about being out in nature swimming that you just can't get in a chlorinated pool. There's also, there's sort of an endorphin thing that happens when you do this that you really can't duplicate,” Gould says.
Between four and 15 swimmers have showed up almost every day since April to swim in the ocean or the bay. And some of these swimmers are not just shore locals.
DH Choi drives from Princeton. He swims then drives to work in Clark.
“My wife says ‘what are you doing? Are you crazy?’” Choi says.
Marek Bykuck is a bit late catching up, probably because of his hour-plus drive from Jefferson Township in Northern Morris County.
And for one more day, the 4 a.m. wakeups, the long drives and the cold-water headaches are all worth it for the swimmers.
“You get out of the water and it's freezing cold, and you just feel like a rock star, and you just feel like, I’m alive, that’s it,” Foy says.
The Sandy Hook Sunrise Swimmers are looking for more recruits. Those interested in joining the group can find them on their Facebook page.