Jenna Seibold estimates it’s a two minute walk from her dorm at Endicott College in Beverly, MA to the Atlantic Ocean. The freshman two-sport athlete (field hockey and ice hockey) isn’t sure what made her do it the first time, but early in her first semester, she decided to take a dip. She loved the adrenaline rush and the feeling of calm the plunges gave her, so she set herself a challenge to do it every day.
The ocean swim feels like a reset, said Seibold. It feels like physical therapy on sore muscles after a tough training day. She finds it clears her mind and it feels like her day doesn’t actually start until she’s taken her dip, even if it doesn’t happen until the afternoon.
Seibold started the swims for herself, but found motivation in so many people doubting that she’d keep it up. Friends and family have been fascinated and supportive, but most people who hear about what she’s doing for the first time are skeptical. Truly a competitive life-long athlete, Seibold finds fulfillment in proving those who doubt her wrong.
“The doubt from other people that I won’t keep going is a big part just because that’s always in the back of my mind, (especially) it’s cold out and I don’t know if I’m going to go in today. Just the doubt from other people really helps,” she said.
It also really helped her to learn that she was not alone in finding this practice rewarding. Seibold found validation and kinship in watching extreme athlete Wim Hof’s documentary about the benefits of exposure to the cold.
There are similarities between the feeling of peace and calm that comes from submerging in cold water and the rush of cold and rightness that comes with that first step onto the ice, but Seibold said she hadn’t consciously made that connection.
“I honestly didn’t even think of that. We haven’t been able to play a game or anything for a while. When you’re playing hockey, the sense of calmness it gives you and also that adrenaline rush when you’re out on the ice and you’re so happy. (The hockey rink is) a place for me that I enjoy to go to. It’s my relief for the day (and I’ve missed it). I feel (the ocean swim) is something right now that I look forward to every day. It’s like my substituting what I would have been doing when I play hockey,’ Seibold said.
“Everything else just doesn’t feel like it’s going on when you’re when you’re in there.”
— sammy davis (@sammydavis_16) December 15, 2020
Even in the warmer months, Beverly Cove’s water temperature peaks at around 65 degrees. These days, it’s closer to 45 degrees. But the temperature hasn’t dissuaded the daily dips. Seibold and anyone going in with her bring winter hats and coats and towels and have learned that getting their feet warm is the key to a quicker warm up.
Seibold started her swims more than three months ago and she is still going strong. And she’s brought along some friends. Former Boston University standout Sammy Davis is one of Seibold’s gym workout partners. The first time Seibold casually mentioned going for a swim, Davis joined her out of curiosity. Now their dunks are a shared daily ritual and they’re using them to raise money and awareness for the Travis Roy Foundation.
Davis attended the same prep school at Roy, who passed away in October, as well as Boston University and was already involved in efforts to fundraise for the Foundation. She couldn’t believe that Seibold had already been taking a daily dip for more than 80 days and wasn’t fundraising. The two combined their efforts and have been more successful than they could have imagined.
“Since Travis wore number 24, our goal was to raise $2,400 by swimming in the ocean for 24 days starting on December 1. We surpassed that goal in less than one week,” said Seibold.
They also surpassed their second goal of $5,000. The fundraiser was at $6,762 at the time of publishing.
“I kind of just spiraled and snowballed, and it is bigger than we expected. It is so much fun. We have so many family and friends and people supporting us and coming along and jumping with us,” said Davis.
“Towards my end of my college career, I started learning that we have a voice and people want to listen to us. I knew I wanted to make change in something,” said Davis. “I’ve just been thinking a lot about Travis and thinking about how much he’s done to the hockey community and for people with spinal cord injuries in general. I just knew I wanted to do something for him. There are always people out there that need help. I think that that was one of our biggest takeaways. I feel like right now, in life, I am satisfied. I have everything that I could want. So how can I help somebody else?”
In her short collegiate career, Seibold has already made a major impact in her community. In addition to fundraising for the Travis Roy Foundation, Seibold took part in a field hockey-wide movement in support of Wesley College student-athlete Alexis Howerin, who was diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer. The Pledge 100 Challenge started among Atlantic East programs to support Howerin but spread throughout Division III. Forty-four programs walked, jogged, or ran over 45,000 miles. Endicott’s team tallied 5,566 miles and Seibold led the team, logging 298.8 miles in October.
Davis will be leaving soon to head to the centralized NWHL season in Lake Placid, NY to play with the Boston Pride, but Seibold plans to continue to take her daily swim. Though the fundraiser has been an incredible part of what they’re doing, it isn’t the only focus.
“It’s such a crazy time right now. There’s so much negative in the world and so much craziness and (these swims allow us to) bring joy to people and have fun and bring smiles and do something good. We get so many texts and so many messages (asking for video) and it’s great to see people laugh and cheer us on and support us,” said Seibold.
What a crew this morning! These are some of the kids I workout with and I love the fact that the don’t only support @jennaseibold6 and I inside the gym but also outside. Grateful for people like this in my life ❤️ Have a happy Saturday everyone! pic.twitter.com/SvPsP6qQLE
— sammy davis (@sammydavis_16) December 12, 2020
That’s a lesson that Davis said Roy himself taught her.
“He taught me to enjoy the moment you’re in right now, be present, and be grateful for what you have.”