While most of us will be in a period of recovery after the celebrations of the evening before, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club will once against ring in the New Year by plunging into the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re looking for what to do in Brooklyn to start 2013, this outstanding event is a great place to start.
The club, which is the oldest of its kind in the United States, invites both members and non-members to take part in the swim on a yearly basis. With temperatures that are often below freezing, these brave souls have built a tradition that has lasted over 100 years on Coney Island.
New Years isn’t the only time the Polar Bear Club dives into the icy north Atlantic waters, however. Every Sunday from November through April, this group can be found assembling at the boardwalk at Coney Island for a weekly swim.
Founded in 1903 by then-famous fitness advocate Bernarr MacFadden, the Coney Island Polar Bears Club began as a way for both men and women to use a dip in the wintery waters to boost their virility, stamina and immunity. The group’s current members come from all walks of life, and are people who “take the plunge” for a variety of different reasons. While some do it for the perceived health benefits and others simply want to have a great time, the Polar Bears have offered a unique opportunity for people searching for what to do in Brooklyn.
The club is also known for its charitable contributions, raising money for a number of causes over the years. Since 2007, it has used its New Years Day Swim to garner funds for Camp Sunshine, which offers support and hope to children facing life-threatening illnesses. Thus far, the Polar Bears have raised more than $75,000 for the organization.
In the past, the club has also raised money for the New York Special Olympics, the Coney Island Sports Foundation, Friends of the Coney Island Boardwalk and PS 100 (the Coney Island School).
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s New Years Day Swim will start at 1:00 p.m. Those who wish to participate should meet on the boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue at Coney Island. Swimmers should also bring towels, warm clothes and old shoes or surf boot—as well as a camera to document this memorable event. While the club does not charge fees for the swim, attendees are strongly encouraged to make a donation to Club Sunshine.