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Coney Island Polar Bears Prep for New Year Swim

With long range weather reports expecting temperatures below freezing, a swim at Coney Island beaches would seem foolish. But, not for the thousands of people from throughout the metropolitan area who are expected to take the chilly plunge on New Year’s Day with the famed Coney Island Polar Bear Club.

The big New Year’s Day dive will kick off at 1 p.m. on Tues., Jan 1, with wave after wave of participants racing towards the icy water.

And so, the Polar Bears tested the waters on Sun., Dec. 23, and reported “balmy” conditions for some of the long-time members who have swam in temperatures that have dipped below zero in past years. The weekend before, the club reported high waves that knocked some swimmers down if they weren’t careful.

Though this year is supposed to be warmer than usual, members have some words from the wise  to the public on how to properly prepare for the shock of bitter cold waters at Coney Island Beach.

First, Jim McDonald, secretary of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, urged participants to pre-register in advance to get their wrist band so that they don’t have to wait in line.

He also warned participants to take precautions before going into the water.

“When you go into the water, do not dive into shallow water and use water shoes to protect your feet,” McDonald said. “Also, take public transportation because we are expecting grid-lock conditions in Coney Island.”

Eddie Marks, district manager of Community Board 13 and an avid member of the Coney Island Polar Bears, recommended people “come with an open mind,” and “since it is a new year, the first thing you should do is be ready for a new challenge.”

“Come with a friend to hold your clothes, otherwise you must put it on the side and pick it up later,” Marks said. “Embrace the water, you are not the only one going in, everyone around you will be going in. And if you get too cold, stay there for a minute or two and then get right back out.”

For updates and information about the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and to pre-register, go to https://polarbearclub.org/pb-site/. For updated information, follow the Polar Bear Club on Twitter at @CIPolarBearClub or Facebook at www.facebook.com/ConeyIslandPolarBearClub.

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