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Extreme Polar Bear Plunges



One of the most exhilarating ways to burn off some energy and have a blast during the winter months is to take a “polar bear plunge” — jump into a freezing pond, river or ocean. As your body scrambles to adapt to the drastic temperature drop, you may feel an Adrenaline surge like you’ve never felt before.

On New Years Day, many bold plungers broke out of their comfort zones and went for an icy swim. Some plunges will take place later in the year.

Here are five extreme polar bear plunges.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

New York’s Coney Island has an old-fashioned, exciting amusement park feel . America’s oldest winter bathing group, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, keys into that spirit, with club members plunging into the Atlantic every Sunday from November through April. The main event is New Year’s Day, when around 300 thrill seekers from around New York and the rest of America participate. Before anyone can make a dash for the waves, the master of ceremonies, Chief Polar Bear, gathers entrants by blowing a conch shell.

The club owes its existence to the efforts of bodybuilder Bernarr McFadden, who founded it in 1903. Macfadden was known as the “Father of Physical Culture.” An early champion of nutritious food and exercise, he believed that regular cold water plunges were healthy and stamina-boosting.

Courage Polar Bear Dip

You might think that Canadians have so much exposure to cold weather that they would avoid sub-zero water, but you are mistaken. Canada has a wealth of cold water plunges, including the Courage Polar Bear Dip, which runs at Coronation Park in Oakville, Ontario. The Courage kicked off for the first time in 1985 and blossomed into Canada’s biggest charity polar bear plunge, enticing hundreds of stoic swimmers and thousands of observers. According to the organizers, some attendees come for the buzzing festival atmosphere while others want to ring in the new year by doing something extreme.

All the funds raised go towards clean water projects through the charity group World Vision Canada.

Vancouver Polar Bear Swim

Vancouver, BC’s annual Polar Bear Swim runs from the local picnic spot English Bay. The club debuted back in 1920 and was run by Peter Pantages, a nephew of the famous Vaudeville age theater impresario, Alexander Pantages. Then, just 10 swimmers braved the bay. In 2000, a record 2,128 swimmers turned up and that record stood until 2011, when reportedly 2,230 daredevils took the plunge. Anyone with the drive to continue the tradition must register in front of the English Bay Bathhouse between 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day. Some extra bold swimmers have taken the plunge in costumes of Elvis, Santa Claus and a family of Vikings.

Lewes Polar Bear Plunge 

The Lewes Polar Bear Plunge ranks as one of Delaware’s most popular events. “The uniqueness of this event, unlike many others, is that it spans all genders, age groups, income levels, and every demographic area of the state, with participation extending beyond our state’s borders,” the organizers say. Last year, the plunge that takes place off buzzing Rehoboth Beach lured almost 4,000 swimmers, raising over $650,000 for Special Olympics Delaware. The ice was first ritualistically broken back in 1982 when Dave “Da Bear” Frederick led the charge, breaching the Atlantic off Cape Henlopen State Park. For a warm-up, swimmers can participate in the 5K Run to the Plunge.

Seattle Polar Bear Plunge

In famously rainy Seattle, people apparently just cannot get enough of water. The Seattle Polar Bear Plunge was the brainchild of a local aquatic center manager, Janet Wilson. Since its launch in 2003, attendance has swelled to almost 1,000 brave plungers. According to the organizers, there are two types of plungers. The first likes to hang out for a while in the freezing water, while the second just takes a quick dip before grabbing a towel and rekindling some warmth. The organizers also warn participants not to drink any alcohol, because, contrary to popular belief, it provokes a condition too extreme even for the keenest winter sports enthusiast: hypothermia.

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