As I’ve mentioned before, Coney Island is a magical place. It is even more so in those dusky/dawny hours add a wedding and exponentially up the magic factor.
Capri, the doyenne of open water swimming, always posts about the summer Friday Early Morning Sunrise Swims. Since I saw the first posting, I’ve to-do listed it. However because the sun rises early in the summer, which means catching the Q train at somewhere between 4:30 and 5 am, the FEMSS remained unticked. That is until I saw that my aquaphilic friend Bonnie posted about her desire to to this as well. After a few back and forth comments, we made the loose commitment to go, “I’ll try to set my alarm…”
Commitments became more firm when we found out that two CIBBOWS members were going to tie the knot during the upcoming FEMSS. I found out during my volunteer stint with CIBBOWS for the Grimaldo mile, I told Bonnie who also knew one of the to-be brides; this tightened the loose commitment.
As I boarded the train at almost 4:45 (after waiting for 20 minutes) I reminisced about my association with Coney Island and the subway at this hour, it was usually a return home after a night of rides, sideshows, fireworks and boardwalk people-watching. Now I’m on the way there to swim, frolick in the ocean at this duppy hour.
Pre-dawn wedding crowd on the boardwalk
Ready for the wedding (c) Bonnie Frogma’s camera
Getting ready for a pre-dawn swim (c) Bonnie Frogma
When I was told about the wedding I envisioned a small, very informal gathering. Two people who fell in love in/near the ocean and this beach and deciding to celebrate this life event there. The first hint that this was more were the candles in the sand creating a path to the water. As we approached the waters edge, we saw the crowd, many of them swimmers but most of them not, gathered around a lifeguard chair. This was more than a small, intimate gathering. While not huge, the couple had gathered an impressive group of friends, family and swimmers to share this moment, at this early Friday morning before sunrise hour.
Path to the altar
Ready to jump in! (c) Bonnie Frogma
Some of us, including Bonnie and myself, jumped into the surf as we waited for the events to unfold. The water was a little chilly so I got wet up to my knees while Bonnie and others dove straight in. Just when I was about to get in above my knees, the crowd moved towards the chuppah that was placed where the candle path ended and the ocean began.
Flanked by a few family/friends, Alison and Kathleen walked down the candlelit path towards the officiant. They had a beautiful ceremony which ended with more friends/family creating and umbrella bridge that led them to their first dip in the ocean as a married couple. This was followed by a celebratory swim for much of the guests-jumping in the waves in celebration of love. Showing care for their loved ones, the couple hired lifeguards to keep an eye on swimmers from the shore (the City lifeguards were not on duty until 9 or 10).
Eventually the crowd in the ocean thinned leaving a few of us to swim, tread and negotiate ocean waves. After a few minutes of shivering, the ocean felt nice and refreshing. I treaded, did some dolphin flips (or flops in my case) and counted strokes along with the other open water swimmers. While we were treading and chatting, the issue of “food trucks” kept popping up. “I heard that they hired food trucks.” “I don’t know but [I forget who was named] always goes to the one in the Home Depot parking lot afterwards. Maybe that is it.” We continued “playing” in the water until the inevitable, people had to leave for work. Bonnie left around 6:30 we all followed soon after. I worked from home that day so had a relatively flexible schedule and was torn between staying and leaving. With deadlines looming like shark fins, I decided to leave.
As I approached the boardwalk, I saw the wedding crowd gathered in a boardwalk ally…and…food trucks!!!! Dilemma…should I crash or should I head home for some blueberries in the fridge? I saw a couple of familiar faces in the crowd so I decided to blend in.
Full on gourmet breakfast from a food truck–omelette station, fresh fruit, pastries, grits, BACON, fresh squeezed orange juice, juice station (beets, ginger, kale, etc.), another station for egg sandwiches, corned beef hash…food, glorious food. I had a plate full, toasted the brides and ate some more.
As I was about to leave (and before I gave the brides hugs and well-wishes) I noticed a tattoo on the calf of one of them. It is a tattoo I noticed and admired when I saw her swim last year and I paraphrase, “always keep swimming.” A nice metaphor for the morning and reminder for me. (Schmaltz alert): They are two people of age who were in each other’s circles for a while (from what I heard) and never had the chance to connect until about a year ago. When I say of age, they are women who have experienced life, met many people, most likely have had prior relationships (and possibly even marriages), I think one of them has adult children. Both of them have managed to “keep swimming” and found each other, find happiness and love through doing the things that they love. As long as you are living, keep swimming because there are always new adventures ahead!