PHOTOS: Brave souls welcome 2017 at Coney’s annual Polar Bear Plunge

January 4, 2017 Jaime DeJesus
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Brrr-inging in 2017 in style.

Thousands of brave souls weathered the cold temperatures on New Year’s Day in the name of tradition and a good cause.

On Sunday, January 1, Coney Island was the site of its annual Polar Bear Plunge, hosted by the Polar Bear Club, a group founded in 1903 that swims in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island every Sunday from November through April.

However, the New Year’s Day event is special, and the large attendance showed exactly how much.

“It was the 114th annual New Year’s Day Plunge by the Coney Island Polar Bear Club,” said Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. “The weather was in the mid to upper 40s with brilliant sun. Approximately 2,500 participants attended, and all got in and out of the 39 degree water safely.”

According to the organization, an additional 8,000 to 10,000 spectators lined the beach to observe the tradition.

Spectators who attended the day had a great time celebrating Coney, a new beginning, and tradition with family and friends. “The Polar Bear Plunge is a Brooklyn tradition,’ said longtime attendee Tara Ryan, who decided to watch this time instead of jump in the frigid water as she has in the past. “You feed off the energy of the crowd and it’s the greatest adrenaline rush as you hit the frigid water. You come out with the greatest sense of accomplishment. It really is a cleansing experience.  I come out to the beach every year, even if I don’t swim.”

Ryan was glad that the weather cooperated. “This year, we were fortunate enough to have such beautiful weather. It created the kind of vibe you’d see on the Fourth of July,” she added. “Everyone seemed so happy and hopeful for a great new year with swimmers and spectators alike eating, drinking and dancing on the Boardwalk.  It was impossible not to soak in the joy of the day. “

Along with celebrating the scenery and atmosphere, there is also a charitable aspect to the day. This year, the organization suggested that each participant give a donation of $40 to Camp Sunshine. And they did not disappoint in giving back.

“Due to the generosity of the plungers and the Coney Island community, we raised about $80,000 for our charity partner, Camp Sunshine,” said Thomas. “Camp Sunshine is located in Casco, Maine and takes children with life-threatening illnesses and their families to the camp to provide relief from the daily stress of their lives. Last year, 22 families from the New York metropolitan area attended the camp due to our fundraising efforts.”

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