Coney Island Polar Bear Club

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The Coney Island Polar Bears in the water at Coney Island on December 22nd, 2013

The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States.[1] The club was founded by famed health advocate Bernarr McFadden in 1903.[2] Members swim in the Atlantic Ocean at Coney Island every Sunday from November through April.

Every New Year's Day, the Club is joined by participants from around the country - although most hark from New York - who partake in an annual swim. The 2005 event had 300 participants and 6000 onlookers.[1] The Chief Polar Bear blows a conch shell to gather the swimmers before they run into the water.[1]

Preparing for the New Years Day plunge in 2011

The club began using the event to raise funds for Special Olympics starting in 2005,[3] and Camp Sunshine in 2007.[4]

The club was mentioned on the season 3 episode of Seinfeld, The Pez Dispenser. In the episode Kramer informs Jerry that he has joined the club, claiming it to be 'invigorating'.

The club was most recently publicized on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, in a taped segment by Dan Bakkedahl about the effects of global warming on the club in faux-nature documentary style.

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The 2011 swim had close to 1,500 participants, 7,500 onlookers, and raised almost $50,000 for camp sunshine (

The CIPBC meets every Sunday From November through April for a standing 1pm dip into the Atlantic brine. The water temperature in early January is around 38 degrees F headed down to around 33 degrees in mid to late February.


  1. ^ a b c [1] Nick Kaye "Polar Bear Club Swims: New Year Parties (Don't Hold the Ice)", December 23, 2005 New York Times
  2. ^ [2] Cynthia Blair "1903: Coney Island Polar Bear Club Founded", Newsday
  3. ^ Special Olympics New York partners with Coney Island Polar Bears
  4. ^ "Coney Island club prefers chilly start to new year", January 2, 2007, USA Today, Retrieved January 2, 2007

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