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Posts Tagged ‘Coney Island Polar Bear Club’

Coney Island Polar Club

Members of the Coney Island Polar Club enjoy a Sunday Swim, December 22, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

The Coney Island Polar Bears, the oldest winter bathing club in the country, go for a dip in the Atlantic every Sunday starting in November. On January 1st, everyone’s invited to join the party. The Polar Bear Plunge is a fun way to spend New Year’s Day, whether you brave the water or snap photos from the shore. Some of the costumed plungers in Bruce Handy’s photos of past New Year’s Days are reminiscent of the Mermaid Parade. There’s the Metrocard Man, Big Babies in Diapers, Hawaiian dancers, and many superheroes, as well as penguins, ducks, and of course polar bears!

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

Costumed Characters: Asbury Toll Plaza Meets MetroCard Man at 2013 Polar Bear Plunge, January 1, 2013. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

The zany event is also a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families can enjoy a summer holiday. You can register and pledge a donation to this year’s plunge or help participants meet their fundraising goals here. Swim time is 1pm, but it’s best to arrive early. About 2,000 people joined last year’s Plunge, earning an “I Did It” certificate from the Club and bragging rights forever while raising more than $22,000 for Camp Sunshine.

Among the stores that will be open for New Year’s Day are Nathan’s, Ruby’s Bar, The Freak Bar, Tom’s Coney Island and Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, along with Williams Candy, Lola Star’s Boardwalk Boutique, Coney Island and Brooklyn Beach Shops, and Brooklyn Rock. For the first time ever, the Coney Island Circus Sideshow will perform on New Year’s Day, with continuous shows from 2-6pm 12-7pm.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

2012 Polar Bear Plunge, January 1, 2012. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

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Coney Island Polar Bear Club

Coney Island Polar Bear Club, November 6, 2011. Photo © Bruce Handy via Coney Island Photo Diary

Best known for their New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club actually goes for a dip in the Atlantic every Sunday at 1pm from November through April. Today, November 3rd, is the first swim of the 2013-2014 season for the country’s oldest winter bathing club, founded in 1903 by Bernarr Macfadden.

In this video by Polar Bear Capri Djatiasmoro, taken on April 28, 2013, the final cold water swim of last season, the Bears “circle up” at the ten minute mark. The water temp was 50F / 10C. Want to join them? For the 2013-2014 season, the Coney Island Polar Bears are accepting 10 applicants for membership chosen by lottery.

To register for the lottery, you must sign up here and will be notified of the results by November 9th. Selected applicants are required to pay a $25 application fee (non-refundable), participate in 12 swims within a single season between November and April and be voted in by a majority of the membership. The club has approximately 150 full-time members with about 100 coming out for weekly swims. Here’s another vid, also by Polar Bear Capri Djatiasmoro, of the group walking to the water on a cold day in January. Can you say camaraderie?

You can also join the Coney Polar Bear Club for one guest swim. Just show up at the Bears “Clubhouse” at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Coney Island Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing.

Membership is not required for the January 1st Polar Bear Plunge, a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine and local charities. Besides being a great way to start off the new year, the event raises more than $20,000 annually for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life threatening diseases.

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January 1, 2013: Videos of the Day: Coney Island Polar Bear New Year’s Day Plunge 2013

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ATZ is pleased to present this Coney Island Polar Bear’s eye view of the 2013 New Year’s Day Plunge with videos by Polar Bear Club members Jim McDonnell and Princess Mermaid Capri. The Polar Bear Club, which has 150 members who swim every Sunday in the winter, celebrated their 110th year with the 2013 New Year’s Day Plunge. About 2,000 people participated in today’s event, which is free and open to the public. They earned an “I Did It” certificate from the Club and “bragging rights forever,” as one participant says in Jim’s video. The water temperature was 41F/5C, air temp 37F and wind chill 27F, according to Capri.

For the first time in the Polar Bear Club’s history, instead of everyone running into the water at once, waves of people went in approximately every seven minutes, a couple hundred at a time. Also for the first time, registration was mandatory for the New Year’s Day Plunge since participants were issued color-coded wristbands. Those with blue wristbands were in the first wave of swimmers at 1pm, followed by red, green, orange and purple. Here’s the first wave…

“It went very well,” Polar Bear President Dennis Thomas told ATZ. “The Parks Department wanted a little more control and less chaos. And we did a better job of getting everyone registered.” Last year on New Year’s Day, temps in the 50s drew a record number of participants– more than 3,000– making the changes advisable from a safety standpoint.

Besides being a great way to start off the new year, the annual event is a fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life threatening diseases. According to Thomas, almost $22,000 was raised for Camp Sunshine and they expect to meet their goal of $25,000. This year, funds are also being raised for Coney Recovers, a coalition of local nonprofits helping with relief efforts after SuperStorm Sandy. If you missed the event, it’s not too late to donate online or mail in a check.

This video by Princess Mermaid Capri shows the fourth wave of swimmers…

Some of the wacky costumed characters are familiar from previous years’ swims or reminiscent of the Mermaid Parade. In photos and videos, we spotted the bagpiper, the Metrocard Man, Santa Claus, Hawaiians, various superheroes and the guys with the inflatable octopus toy as well as penguins and polar bears! Some carried hand-made signs that read “Free Polar Hugs” and “Polar Bears from the Bronx.” Two Japanese guys in bikinis from Tokyo Circus shared a timeless message: “Your Smile Is Beautiful.” Happy New Year from Coney Island!

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The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is going for their first swim of the season on Sunday, December 2nd, a month later than usual due to Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath. “We extend our condolences to everyone who was affected by the hurricane,” Dennis Thomas, president of the winter swimming club told ATZ. “We are happy to help out the Parks Department and the Aquarium with cleanup and look forward to a shortened but a good strong season.” Last year’s first swim, shown in the above vid by a club member, was on November 6th and the water temp was 51F.

The Bears swim at 1pm every Sunday from November through April. There are currently 150 full-time members of the club with about 100 coming out for weekly swims, says Thomas. Membership is closed for the 2012-2013 season, but you can join them for a guest swim. Just show up at the Bears “Clubhouse” at the Aquarium’s Education Hall on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm with your bathing suit, a towel, surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers, and some warm clothing.

Just 31 days away, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s annual January 1st Swim is one of the more unusual ways to welcome the New Year. It’s become increasingly popular and a winter counterpart to the Mermaid Parade. On New Year’s Day 2012 in Coney Island, a record 3,000 “Did “It” at the Polar Bear Plunge, nearly three times as many as the previous year, Thomas told ATZ. The event is free and open to the public, but Freezin’ for a Reason is also a major fundraiser for Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life threatening illnesses and their families.

Coney Island Polar Bear

Aquarium Director Jon Dohlin Greets Coney Island Polar Bear at Post Hurricane Sandy Cleanup on the Boardwalk. November 17, 2012. Photo © Princess Polar Bear Capri

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This short film produced by Coney Island Polar Bear Club member Jim Muscarella celebrates the joyous spirit of the club’s annual New Year’s Day swim. This year, sunny skies and temps in the 50s drew the largest number of participants in the club’s history. But the coldest thing on Coney Island, according to Muscarella’s film, is going for a winter swim when air temps are 10 degrees and under and water temps are under 35 degrees. Brrr! Well, maybe next year–it’s February and temps are still in the 40s and 50s.

Founded in 1903, the Polar Bear Club is also the oldest thing on Coney Island says Chief Polar Bear Dennis Thomas in the film: “We’re happy to be a Coney Island landmark. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter swimming club in the country. We’re older than the Parachute Drop and the Cyclone and anything else you see here.”

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Winter Carnival

2011 Lake George Winter Carnival Outhouse Races. February 5, 2011. Photo © Josh Beeles via flickr

This month the Lake George Winter Carnival is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a round of Polar Plunges, Ice Diving Demos, Motorcycle Ice Races, Dog Sled Races, Polar Golf and more. On opening weekend, photographer Josh Beeles got some wonderful shots of the Outhouse Races and Polar Plunge. The event first caught our eye because of a Coney Island connection. According to the carnival’s website, the Lake George Winter Carnival’s Polar Plunge was started more than 35 years ago by Coney Island Polar Club President Al Mottola…

History of the Polar Plunge – The Lake George Winter Carnival Polar Plunge has evolved over the years. The Coney Island Polar Bears started this tradition in 1903. Al Mottola, president of the Coney Island Polar Bears, first appeared at the Lake George Winter Carnival in 1973, taking their first plunge into the icy waters of Lake George. Spectators and participants were entertained for years by the group and many visitors and locals joined in on the fun of swimming in the ice cold water. They entertained many fans for years at the Lake George Winter Carnival, including Charlie “Papa Bear” Albert, who founded the Lake George Polar Bear Club and the 1st Day Polar Plunge that draws 800 plus people January 1st every year. The Polar swim is sponsored by the Lake George Winter Carnival every January 1st, and Saturday and Sundays during the month of February we invite anyone to participate, if you dare. Over 1000 participants for 2010.

This weekend’s featured event at the winter carnival is the NY State AMA Sanctioned Motorcycle & ATV Ice Race Championship. You can watch a live webcast courtesy of the Electric City Motorcycle Riders Club.

The Polar Plunge as well as Snowmobile Water Skips, Dog Sled Rides and Skydiving are set for every weekend in February.Click here for a schedule of events.

Winter Carnival

Lake George Winter Carnival Polar Plunge. February 5, 2011. Photo © Josh Beeles via flickr

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