Coney Island

Polar Bears take their annual New Year’s plunge

Brave Waders Gather at Coney Island for Chilly Swim

January 3, 2017 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Swimmers race down the beach toward the water at Coney Island. Eagle photos by Arthur De Gaeta
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Thousands braved the cool temperatures to participate in the annual New Year’s Day Coney Island Polar Bear Swim. Some attendees may have been encouraged by the sunny, warmer than average 48-degree temperature, shrugging it off as “not-so-bad.” Others, however, were noticeably shaken by the cold and salty surf.

For the big dip, folks came to Coney Island from all over the city, and places far away. They were encouraged to bring warm clothes, surf boots or old sneakers, towels and a camera to record their dive for posterity.  

The event began at 1 p.m. on Jan. 1 as swimmers gathered on the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue. There were five groups of runners prepared to take the plunge.

While icy dips for a good cause can be enjoyed in many locations throughout the country, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the U.S. The seasoned members of the Polar Bear Club enjoy swimming in the Atlantic every Sunday from November to April.

Those attending this year’s event were asked to make a $40 donation to Camp Sunshine. Since 1984, Camp Sunshine has been providing retreats, recreation and support for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.  

All registered attendees of the Polar Swim enjoyed free parking at MCU Park and free admission to the Coney Island Aquarium.  They also were offered $5 rides on the Wonder Wheel, with half the cost benefitting Camp Sunshine.

For those too frightened to take the full swim, there was a “Chicken Dip,” where participants could dip only their toes into the rolling surf. This year’s sponsors also included Steeplechase Beer Garden, Luna Park, Coney Island Brewing, Reyka Vodka, Deno’s Wonder Wheel, the New York Aquarium and the Alliance for Coney Island.

BELOW: Arthur Aidala, immediate past president of the Brooklyn Bar Association (third from right in glasses) has been organizing a group to take the Polar Bear plunge every year for the last five years. This year it was a moderate 48 degrees in Coney Island so it wasn’t as harsh as in the past, but Aidala said, “It’s an incredible way to start the year. It gives you such a rush of adrenaline.” Also pictured is Michael Farkas (second from right) with his son and daughter.


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