Excitement was in the air as New Yorkers plunged into the frigid water on New Year’s Day as part of the annual Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge.
This is the 119th year of the event, though last year’s was canceled due to the pandemic. Many participants came equipped with props, and even dressed the part.
“You wanna be part of it, not just jump in the water, but make it fun, make it crazy,” said Luiza Teixeira, whose family dressed in penguin onesies.
It was Teixeira and her family’s first time participating. They said they did it for the community experience.
“This is a moment to see people’s smiles,” Teixeira said. “I know we have to wear masks and keep our distance and they have great guidelines to maintain that.”
In a break from previous years, there was no countdown with large groups running into the water together. This year, participants were asked to spread out along the bay and go in smaller groups.
The event is free for all, but organizers said people were encouraged to make donations, which benefit local community groups.
“The Alliance for Coney Island, Coney Island USA, Coney Island History Project, the YMCA and a few smaller groups,” said Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, of the local groups involved. “New Yorkers have been very generous, so we’re always happy to collect money we can put back into the community.”
The weather this year was a bit warmer, with temperatures in the 50s, but many said the water was still pretty cold.
The frigid dip for many also had special significance, given the past two years with COVID-19.
“Let’s get over this, you know, no more COVID please,” said Victor Martinez after taking a dip. “This is about just thinking good, thinking positive and thinking about better days.”
Many participants said they plan on coming back next year.