Daily Dippers Make a Splash

Two writers investigate the spring term tradition of the daily dip.

by Gretchen Bauman and Eliza Dunn | 4/20/22 2:20am

4-19-22-river-summerhargrave
by Summer Hargrave / The Dartmouth

It was a classic spring day in Hanover — 50 degrees, overcast and drizzling — when we started our trek down to the Ledyard Canoe Club docks for our daily ritual: A dip in the river. Down at the docks it somehow felt even colder, but we peeled off layers until we were dressed in only our bathing suits. It took some mental preparation, but eventually, we jumped. The cold was sudden and shocking — we both pulled ourselves out of the river as fast as we could. This jump marked day five of our week of daily dips — a challenge we undertook to write about the classic senior spring tradition.

Each year, a group of dedicated seniors swims in the river every single day of their spring term, through rain, shine or even snow in the earlier days of the quarter. In the “daily dip” GroupMe, which currently includes just under 100 seniors, students message out when they’re dipping — and send selfies as proof. The GroupMe rules are strict: If you’re not dipping every day, you’re kicked. 

Unfortunately, since we started during week three, we cannot claim true daily dipper status. Still, through our frequent trips to the river, we were able to talk to some of the students who have been dipping from the start. All of the seniors we met had committed to the dip and had successfully completed every day of the challenge, but they all seemed to have different dipping habits and strategies.

Students dip at all times of day and in all sorts of places. Campbell Whalen ’22 told us that her typical dipping spot is by the Ledyard boathouse, but as the weather gets warmer she hopes to explore spots further from campus like Mink Brook.

Whalen typically dips in the afternoon after she exercises so she is warmer while she dips — although she doesn’t think this strategy is successful in fending off the cold.

“When I get down here … I’m a little bit hot, but it doesn’t really work,” Whalen said. “It doesn’t really make [the cold] any better.” 

Carly Brown ’22, on the other hand, is “more of an evening dipper,” she said. She usually dips with her roommate, but if she learns that a big group is going to dip through the GroupMe, she may join them earlier in the day.

Four weeks into the challenge, the dippers have reported several exciting dip stories, from braving the cold to wildlife sightings. On the first day of classes, when Whalen went to dip, she recalled that “there were ice chunks floating in the water….and the water temp was like 30-something.”

Thankfully, most of the ice had melted by our week of daily dips, but it did bring a wide variety of weather, from freezing rain to sunny, sixty-degree days. Regardless, we made it into the river every day, though some dips took more discipline than others. Despite our fervent hopes, the water always felt just as cold — if not colder — than the day before.

Although the underlying premise of jumping in the river each day remained consistent across all dippers, each one had different reasons for taking on the challenge. For Brown, the popularity of the daily dip tradition inspired her to join in.

“I feel like it’s always been a thing that a few seniors do every year, as long as I can remember,” Brown said. “Once a friend told me that they were doing it, I decided to do it as well.” 

Similarly, Alana McClements ’22 noted that her lack of participation in the daily dip during sophomore summer motivated her to take part in the tradition during her senior spring.

“A bunch of people did [the daily dip] over sophomore summer — and I regretted not doing it then,” McClements said. “I also just think it’s fun … it’s a good excuse to get down to the river, which is my favorite thing about going to school here.” 

Whalen echoed McClements, explaining that her appreciation for the river inspired her to daily dip. 

“I love the river and I really appreciate having it,” Whalen said. “So I like being able to say that I jumped in as much as I could.” 

Some dippers have noticed certain benefits from jumping in the river each day. Whalen, for example, believes she is physically healthier as a result of her dips. 

“I haven’t gotten sick this term, and I think part of the reason is because I’m shocking my body a little bit and giving myself an adrenaline boost every day [through the daily dip] … I’ve completely made it up in my head, but I think it might be psychosomatic.” 

Not everyone has noticed the benefits, though. McClements actually worries that her dips may be harming her health.

“I think it is slightly unhealthy,” McClements said. “I feel kind of sick and daily dipping isn’t going to make me feel any better.” 

While Brown is unconvinced of the physical health benefits, she remarked on the social and mental health advantages. 

“It’s good for my social health … I’ve made new friends,” Brown said. “It’s also a good way to make sure no days this spring are just slipping by.” 

We also began to notice these benefits. The water, although painfully freezing at first, eventually felt invigorating and refreshing — especially once we were out of the river and wrapped in our towels. Before our dips, we would sit in the hammock by the river, a welcome and peaceful break from our jam-packed schedules. A few days in, we realized that we had both started looking forward to our dipping ritual every day.

Every dipper we spoke to maintained that dipping has been a positive experience — and we feel the same.

“It benefits the soul for sure,” McClements said. “It’s the best part of every day.” 

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