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January 2, 2004 8:11 AM   Subscribe

Polar Bear Clubs have become a traditional way to greet the new year. The original US club seems to be in Atlantic City, NJ, where winter bathers have been taking the plunge on New Years Day for over 100 years. Some say that the plunges are rooted in the Nordic tradition of saunas and cold water bathing, but today most clubs focus on fundraising, taking a sponsored dip for charity. On Jan 1, 2003 Ivy Granstrom took the plunge in Vancouver BC at the age of 91 -- her 75th New Years dip. New clubs are popping up all the time - everywhere from Hampton, NH to Busan, Korea to Kirov, Russia -- even Gainesville, GA boasts some Polar Bears.
posted by anastasiav (14 comments total)
Last February I participated in the Penguin Plunge to raise money for Special Olympics of Connecticut.

posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:28 AM on January 2, 2004

posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:45 AM on January 2, 2004

Actually, I thought Coney Island and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn was the original place where it started? (your Atlantic City link even goes to them)
posted by amberglow at 8:49 AM on January 2, 2004

amberglow, I'm a dufus. My mind was trying to make Atlantic City and Coney Island into the same place.....
posted by anastasiav at 8:55 AM on January 2, 2004

Rome does it too, into the Tiber-- this year dedicated to peace.
posted by amberglow at 9:03 AM on January 2, 2004

Boston's L Street Brownies have been doing it for 100 years in Southie... this year, in costume.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:33 AM on January 2, 2004

They've been racing in the Serpentine on Xmas day since 1864, mad fools.
posted by daveg at 9:37 AM on January 2, 2004

The Milwaukee Polar Bears have been plunging in Lake Michigan for over 50 years.

(I'll admit I've done it twice, but never again!)
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:56 AM on January 2, 2004

posted by rdone at 12:04 PM on January 2, 2004

I wanna hear how jpoulos fared...
posted by Vidiot at 1:00 PM on January 2, 2004

I'm in a two-member polar bear club with my friend Leo. Actually, NH doesn't have polar bears, so we should call it a seal club. We took a plunge at Rye, New Hampshire on March 5th last year and we'll probably do it earlier this year. For the record, NH beaches are coldest between mid-January and early March. Also, we don't get the Gulf Stream so it's a lot colder here than even Boston. Thus, we are the best polar bear club.

I'll send links after I make our club website.
posted by crazy finger at 2:41 PM on January 2, 2004

There was a Polar Bear plunge on South Padre Island this year. It shouldn't count when the water temperature is 65-degrees Fahrenheit and the air temperature is 77-degrees Fahrenheit, should it?
posted by eclectica at 5:29 PM on January 2, 2004

I have to confess I wimped out on the Coney Island plunge this year, but my friend Adrienne got on TV and in the papers for the second year running. But then she looks better in a bathing suit than I.
I wonder if this custom has any relation to other New Year's aquatic events, like the festival of Iemanj√° in Brazil (wherein the sea deity is propitiated) ... :
posted by hairyeyeball at 9:25 PM on January 2, 2004

jpoulos's account here.
posted by Vidiot at 12:30 PM on January 4, 2004

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