Icebreakers looking for newbies for Bristol's New Year's plunge


As a postman, neither snow nor rain will prevent Bristol resident Al Alix from the swift completion of his rounds. The same holds true for him on New Year’s Day, when Al, his wife, Anne, and dozens of hearty souls will brave the 40-degree water at Bristol Town Beach and whatever weather Mother Nature decides to throw at them for their traditional New Year's plunge.

The East Bay Icebreakers, as they call themselves, have been taking the frigid plunge collectively for more than 10 years. Prior to that, the Alixes and their family and friends and members of the Mt. Hope swim team would dive in on New Year’s separately, before Mr. Alix and former swim coach Jonathan Dell decided to combine the groups for the plunge. And since then, other hearty souls have joined in and dived in.

“People say ‘I’m going to do it next year’,” Mr. Alix said of the growing number of Icebreakers. “Then they’ll do it every year, or they’ll never do it again.”

Mr. Alix hopes to attract other plungers to the Bristol event to make it even better. Realizing that some people pass right by Colt State Park on Hope Street as they make their way to Portsmouth, Middletown or Newport for a quick dip, he’d like to see them stop in Bristol where, as Ms. Alix put it, “It’s just something crazy to start the year.”

For the past two years the event has also been used as a fund-raiser for Children’s Wishes, a non-profit group that provides once-in-a-lifetime experiences for children with life threatening illness. Although there is no charge to jump in the icy water, the group will be on hand to accept donations during the event.

This year, with the new Quinta-Gamelin Community Center available, plungers will have a place to go and get warm after the dive.

“We are all set to use the Quinta Gamelin Community Center after the swim for a quick warm-up party,” said Dana Hrabcsak, executive director of Children’s Wishes. “We figure we can have some hot chocolate, coffee and some snacks.”

Anyone interested in joining the group for a New Year’s dip should arrive at the Bristol Town Beach, located inside Colt State Park, before the noontime plunge.

Footwear is recommended, as the beach may be rocky and covered with shells. And be prepared to get wet.

“You have to go all the way in,” Mr. Alix said. “Our rule is that your head’s got to get wet.”


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.