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It’s Polar Bear Season in Coney Island! After the rides close in October, the beach is home to the exuberant members of the country’s oldest cold-water bathing club. At 1 pm every Sunday from November through April, the Bears and Cubs plunge into the chilly Atlantic. It’s fun to spectate and take photos from the shore.

Photographer Jim McDonnell, who has taken the New Year’s Day Plunge, made this short video of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s season opener on November 6th.

The Club’s increasingly popular New Year’s Day fundraiser for Camp Sunshine draws about 1000 who take the plunge and is open to the public. Aspiring members must participate in 12 swims during the season and be approved by the membership. “We have about 140 full-time members in the club,” Polar Bear President Dennis Thomas told ATZ in a previously posted interview. “At our weekly swims we have been averaging 80-90 swimmers.”

Visit the Coney Island Polar Bear Club website for info on joining a swim as a guest or becoming a member.

To attend, show up any Sunday between November and April at the New York Aquarium Education Hall, on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm. Bring your bathing suit (duh), a towel and surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers (you really need something to protect and insulate your feet.) and some warm clothes. We also recommend you bring a friend should you need assistance or want your picture taken on the beach. You will be assigned a “buddy” to swim with and must obey all safety precautions prescribed by the Club.

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Polar Bear Swim on March 16, 2008, Coney Island's Opening Day of the Season. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Polar Bear Swim on March 16, 2008, Coney Island's Opening Day of the Season. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

You don’t have to wait until New Year’s Day to join (or just watch) the world-famous Coney Island Polar Bear Swim. Beat the crowd! Members of the oldest cold-water bathing club in the country plunge into the Atlantic at 1 pm every Sunday from November through April. It’s a great way to enjoy Coney Island’s ambiance during the winter season. The photos accompanying this post were taken on Coney Island’s Opening Day of the Season in March 2008. By the time Coney Island’s rides open on Palm Sunday, which tends to fall in late March or early April, the Polar Bears swim season is winding down.

Visit the Coney Island Polar Bear Club website for info on joining a swim or becoming a member:

Guests are permitted to join us for two swims free of charge. If you decide this is for you and want to continue towards becoming a member, you can then apply for membership. If not, fine, we hope you had a great time,

To attend, show up any Sunday between November and April at the New York Aquarium Education Hall, on the Boardwalk at West 8th Street by 12:30 pm. Bring your bathing suit (duh), a towel and surf boots or an extra pair of sneakers (you really need something to protect and insulate your feet.) and some warm clothes. We also recommend you bring a friend should you need assistance or want your picture taken on the beach. You will be assigned a “buddy” to swim with and must obey all safety precautions prescribed by the Club.

All guests are required to sign a liability waiver.

Don’t forget your neoprine surf boots and your camera!

Polar Bears Snap Photos on the Beach in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

Polar Bears Snap Photos on the Beach in Coney Island. Photo © Tricia Vita/me-myself-i via flickr

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