The New York Dippers Club Makes a Splash
Before filling your bellies with warm turkey and all the fixin’s, consider starting your holiday in an invigorating way, with a cold-water dip. The New York Dippers Club (NYDC) is taking off, and are welcoming all to join in on their daily dips into the Atlantic, or at the very least, for a gratitude dip on Thursday, November 24 as a warmup to their upcoming Full Moon Charity Dip on December 7.
Graham Cullis, a content creator, artist and philanthropist from the UK, took charge of this dipping mission just two days after arriving in Rockaway on October 5 to visit a friend. After creating a video blog about the experience and recruiting people he’s met along the way, starting with a man named Daniel, then Ty from Tiki, Gratitude Mike O’Donnell and Kate Rizzo, Cullis’ growing movement of daily dippers earned a name—the New York Dippers Club. Instead of having a cup of coffee, this group starts their day with a dip in the chilly Atlantic at 9 a.m.
Now why would anyone jump into the ocean during cold fall and winter months when we have perfectly fine beach days during the summer? “It’s a game changer for mental health,” Cullis said. “A lot of people do it for that reason. It’s also said to help all kinds of conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, lots of things. It’s all anecdotal but there are a lot of testimonies saying it relieves symptoms, so why not give it a go?” he said. “Just always consult medical professionals first.”
Cullis says the boost to mental health not only comes from taking the dip, but that sense of community that the NYDC is starting to build. “When we get together, you have that therapy and community, that human connection. A lot of people said they wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t for the group. There’s also this act of cleansing in this cold water and having this feeling that shocks you every day. It’s like having 10 coffees when you jump in that water,” he added. “But it’s that nice sense of community that keeps people coming back.”
The NYDC has grown to about 10 daily jumpers, and 25 who have given it a go. But he’s had bigger groups. He previously had a group called The Pevensey Plungers who regularly took the plunge in Pevensey Bay in East Sussex in his parent’s village in the UK. “I posted content and it went semi-viral and I asked if others wanted to come swimming,” Cullis said. “I had 100 people following me into the water.”
These cold-water dips are just a part of Cullis’ mission. “I travel the world in pursuit of starting and creating communities in the wellness and mental health space,” he said. It all started when he dealt with mental health issues himself, especially during the Covid pandemic. “About two or three years ago, I was in Bali and I discovered I could paint. It helped my mental health and I quit my job because I started getting a following as an artist and I decided to use my art to do philanthropy and raise awareness for mental health. I’ve done different projects in the line of wellness since and have done these cold-water therapy projects in different places,” Cullis explained.
Cullis funds his effort through something he calls the Karma Card Project, in which supporters subscribe (www.patreon.com/Grahamcullisart) to receive six unique prints every six months, so Cullis can continue using his art to raise awareness for mental health, wellness and to run philanthropy projects across the world.
When a friend who commissioned his work invited him to Rockaway, he jumped at the opportunity. “I went to stay with her and then I found this nice family that adopted me on Beach 130th and now I’m here on an extended tourist Visa,” Cullis said. He’ll be taking his last Rockaway plunge on December 26, before hopping on a plane off to his next mission.
Before he leaves, Cullis has some goals. One is to encourage others to take the plunge and join the group for daily dips into the Atlantic on Beach 62nd or Beach 67th (depending on whether or not the Army Corps is doing construction in these areas). A good opportunity for all to try it out is Thanksgiving morning. On Thursday, the group will be on Beach 62nd Street at 9 a.m. for a gratitude dip led by Mike O’Donnell, who will say a few words before the group takes the plunge. Cullis is hoping to draw a big crowd for this dip to bring more awareness to the effort in anticipation of an even bigger event on December 7 at 4:30 p.m., in which the group will take a full moon dip to raise money for a special charity—Camping to Connect.
Cullis learned about this charity after seeing a film about it at the Rockaway Film Festival this fall—local filmmaker Alex Cullen’s “Wood Hood.” Cullis said, “Alex made this movie for this nonprofit, Camping to Connect, and what they do is lead hikes into nature, posturing leadership and mental wellness, and it’s about local city kids that might not be able to afford an experience like this. It moved us to tears, so we thought, what can we do to raise money for this program?”
That led to the idea of a full moon dip, switching up the daily routine of starting the day with an ocean dip at 9 a.m., and doing one as the full moon emerges at 4:30 p.m. on December 7 (on Beach 62nd or 67th, depending on construction), while raising money for Camping to Connect. “We have a $5,000 target to run a program for 10 kids in the local area to have this experience,” Cullis said. He’s currently in discussions with those who run the St. John’s Home for Boys to potentially send those who are willing on a camping trip. On December 7, there will be merch for sale and donation boxes to help raise funds. Cullis has also set up a GoFundMe for this effort which can be found at: https://gofund.me/99279af2
Although Cullis’ Rockaway stay is short, he hopes the NYDC continues beyond him. “I go into these communities to plant a seed,” he said. He expects it to blossom under Captain Kate Rizzo, who will keep the NYDC going. “When I’m gone, this is gonna carry on. I can see there’s good people in this group that will be able to do that,” he said.
In the meantime, consider taking the dip for yourself and “come feel the magic,” as Cullis says. The group plunges every day at 9 a.m. on Beach 62nd or Beach 67th. For full details and daily updates, make sure to join the New York Dipper Club Facebook group and follow them on Instagram at: @newyorkdippersclub