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This American veteran celebrates his 88th birthday with two polar bear dives


(Tribune News Service) – Nothing binds a family more than diving together in freezing cold water during the winter.

In the case of Alfred Lambertson, diving in the ocean is now a family tradition that he shares with his granddaughter.

Better known as ‘Al’ to family and friends, this U.S. Navy veteran from Keyport has no plans to stop, although this year he’s taking not one, but two dives in icy waters this year at the age of 88.

For the past five years, Lambertson has participated in the Polar Bear Plunge in Seaside Heights, where thousands of participants sign up to dive in the Atlantic Ocean each February. Everyone who takes the plunge, individually or as a team, pledges to raise funds, which will go directly to Special Olympics New Jersey.

“I started just because (my granddaughter) Tiff needed donations for Special Olympics,” Lambertson said. “I came to the event five years ago and thought, damn it, let me dive in.”

And he might just be the oldest participant.

Her granddaughter Tiffany Rowald said her husband, Alan, was the first in the family to take the plunge.

“I was a towel rack at the event and got jealous that I didn’t attend,” she said.

Now, every year, she and Lambertson sign up with their team, the Bayshore Retractable Dinks. To date they have raised $64,875.

However, this year is a little different for Lambertson. This dynamic and lively veteran decided to spend his 88th birthday on Wednesday taking an extra dip in the water – this time in Raritan Bay at Keyport Waterfront Park in Keyport.

Full of excitement and dressed in his American flag speedo which he wears on every dive, Lambertson took to the freezing waters as his family, friends and admirers watched and cheered him on.

He had planned to take a quick dip and jump, as the water – and the air – is usually between 30 and 40 degrees this time of year. But with the unusually warm temperature of 67 degrees in Monmouth County on Wednesday, Lambertson just couldn’t let the sunny day pass. He swam longer than expected – diving straight with his whole body submerged underwater.

So, how does it feel to celebrate your 88th birthday in an ice bath?

“It’s awesome,” Lambertson said. ” I can not complain. Being surrounded by family and friends made it even more special.

Lambertson says there’s not much to prepare for the dive. He prides himself on training four times a week and taking great care of his health.

“You work out and take cold showers,” he joked.

For Rowald, it means the world to have his grandfather by his side every year.

The memories and experiences are just as important to Lambertson, but he said he’s also focused on the impact he’s having in his community.

Just getting involved is the message he wants everyone to take away from his story.

“Diving in freezing water for five minutes is nothing compared to what people with disabilities face every day,” he said. “Young or old, always try to make a difference. Never too early to start.

There aren’t any plans to stop the dive anytime soon for this Jersey Shore superstar.

“I still have a few years ahead of me unless I hear from the man upstairs,” he said.

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Alfred Lambertson, Navy veteran. (Screenshot from YouTube)