Polar bear plunge

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Participants in the water during a polar bear plunge. Note the ice on the water.

A polar bear plunge is an event held during the winter where participants enter a body of water despite the low temperature. In the United States, polar bear plunges are usually held to raise money for a charitable organization. In Canada, polar bear swims are usually held on New Year's Day to celebrate the new year.


In Canada, "Polar Bear Swims", "plunges" or "dips" are a New Year's Day tradition in numerous communities across the country.[1][2][3][4] Vancouver, BC's annual Polar Bear Swim Club has been active since 1920 and typically has 1,000 to 2,000 registered participants, with a record 2,128 plunging into English Bay in 2000. Registration is not enforced and the actual number of swimmers may be significantly higher. Estimates of the number of observers are typically up to 10,000.[5][6][7] Suburban White Rock, BC's was founded in 1958, and other suburbs including North Vancouver, Surrey, Delta and Langley also hold swims.[8][9][10]

Other locations include Bowen Island, BC,[11] Sidney, BC,[12]Edmonton, AB,[citation needed] Calgary, AB,[citation needed] Ottawa, ON,[citation needed] Oakville, ON,[13] Toronto, ON,[14] Perth, ON,[15] Clarington, ON,[16] Sarnia, ON,[17] Montreal, QC,[citation needed] North Hatley, QC,[citation needed] Halifax, NS,[citation needed] Prince Edward Island,[18] Ness Lake north of Prince George, BC and St. John's, NL.[citation needed] In Yellowknife, NWT, the "Freezin for a Reason" plunge is held in May after the spring thaw.[19]


The Nieuwjaarsduik in Scheveningen (2010)

Every New Year's Day around 10,000 people dive collectively into the icy cold sea water at Scheveningen, a Dutch beach resort town, since 1960. In 89 locations on beaches and in lakes all over the country, each year around 30,000 people participate in this "Nieuwjaarsduik" (English: New Year's dive), with a record 36,000 participants on January 1, 2012. Since 1998, Unox, a Unilever food brand often associated with winter, adopted the Nieuwjaarsduik and ever since it is tradition to wear Unox branded winter caps and gloves.[20][21]

New Zealand[edit]

Polar plunges (the local name) are held at various beaches in New Zealand, usually on the weekend closest to the shortest day in late June. Among other places, polar plunges are led at Papamoa Beach (Tauranga),[22] Saint Clair Beach (Dunedin),[23] and Castlecliff (Wanganui).[24]

United Kingdom[edit]

Christmas Day swim at Exmouth

In the UK, the majority of winter swimming events take place on Christmas Day or Boxing Day,[25] with many hundreds of people swimming in the sea at the largest events in Exmouth, Lowestoft and Brighton.[26][27]

An annual "Loony Dook" takes place in South Queensferry, Scotland, on New Year's Day. Several thousand attend the event with over one thousand taking the plunge.[28] Participants regularly dress up for the occasion and will usually parade through the local town acting like "loonies" proceeding the "dook". Aside from the regular enthusiasts, most are still inebriated from New Year's Eve celebrations and have more than likely lost a bet.

Another, smaller plunge occurs on Christmas Day at Blackroot Pool in Sutton Park, Birmingham, England.[29] Often, participants aim to raise money for charity.

There is a Christmas Day Harbour Swim in Weymouth, Dorset[30]

In the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, an annual swim is held on Boxing Day.[31]

Since the event's inauguration in 1983, thousands of people have taken part in the annual New Year's Day Dip on the Isle of Man, a British Crown Dependency. Events are held in Peel, Laxey, Douglas, Port St Mary, Ramsey and Castletown for various charities.[32]

United States[edit]

Two women prepare to enter the water in Milwaukee

Polar plunges are held across the United States. Annual events are held in Seattle (since 1993); Evergreen, Colorado;[33] New York (the Coney Island Polar Bear Club);[2][34] Lake George, NY;[35][36] Boston (since 1904);[37] Milwaukee's Bradford Beach (since 1916);[38] New Hampshire;[39] and New Jersey.[40] Some, such as Minnesota's,[41] are held to raise proceeds for the Special Olympics. Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College also organizes an annual "Polar Plunge for Health Equity" into Occom Pond.[39]

The Polar Bear Plunge event in Maryland is the largest polar bear plunge in the United States. It is held annually at Sandy Point State Park and raises funds for the Special Olympics.[42] Sponsored by the Maryland State Police, in 2007, Plungapalooza raised $2.2 million and had 7,400 participants.[43] In 2008, an estimated 12,000 people participated.[42]

Every Super Bowl Sunday, Long Beach, New York, hosts one of the largest in the US. Since 1998 thousands of people have flocked to the beaches of Long Beach to jump into the ocean on Super Bowl Sunday. All proceeds are donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.[44]

From February to March each year, Polar Plunges are held in numerous locations throughout the state of Illinois. Donations and proceeds raised for the Special Olympics.[45]

South Korea[edit]

Busan Polar Bear Swimming Contest in Busan, South Korea

An annual Polar Bear Swimming Contest takes place annually at the Haeundae Beach in Busan, South Korea.[46][47]

Midsummer polar plunge (Antarctica)[edit]

A polar plunge is also held every midsummer in Antarctica – a rite of passage for scientists and visitors to New Zealand's Scott Base. It is held in late December.[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Polar bear dippers start 2010 with icy plunge". CBC News. January 1, 2010. Archived from the original on January 5, 2010. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
  2. ^ a b "Canadian polar bear dippers brave freezing temperatures". CBC News. January 1, 2013.
  3. ^ "Polar bear dips: deep freeze doesn't dissuade swimmers". CBC News. January 1, 2014.
  4. ^ Watch The Rick Mercer Report segment on Polar Bear Dipping in Canada
  5. ^ City of Vancouver. "Home - City of Vancouver". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  6. ^ Vancouver, City of (January 6, 2017). "Polar Bear Swim". vancouver.ca. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  7. ^ Vancouver, City of (December 6, 2012). "Polar bear swim statistics". vancouver.ca. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  8. ^ "Hundreds take plunge at White Rock's Polar Bear Swim - Peace Arch News". January 2, 2015. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  9. ^ "ROTARY ROUNDUP: Rotary-hosted polar bear swim always popular - Peace Arch News". January 27, 2017. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  10. ^ "Here's a list of polar bear swims in the Lower Mainland - Peace Arch News". December 29, 2016. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  11. ^ "Correct Link - New Years Day Swim Video 2014". bowen-island-bc.com. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  12. ^ "Peninsula Celebrations Society | Saanich Peninsula Community and Family Events". Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  13. ^ "Courage Polar Bear Dip". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  14. ^ "Annual Toronto Polar Bear Dip - In support of Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  15. ^ "Perth Polar Bear Plunge - Official Home Page". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  16. ^ "Clarington Polar Bear Swim". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  17. ^ "'Freezin' for a reason'". Sarnia Observer. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  18. ^ Smith, Katie (December 29, 2018). "P.E.I. Polar Bear swimmers prepare for 2019 plunge". The Guardian. Retrieved March 6, 2019.
  19. ^ Short, Dylan (May 16, 2018). "Freezin' for a reason". Northern News Services. Retrieved December 23, 2019.
  20. ^ "UNOX NIEUWJAARSDUIK 2018". Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  21. ^ "Nieuwjaarsduik bijzonder populair dit jaar". telegraaf.nl.
  22. ^ Mauger, Rebecca (July 20, 2017). "Papamoa Polar Plunge". Retrieved January 12, 2018 – via www.nzherald.co.nz.
  23. ^ McAvinue, Shawn (June 16, 2013). "Hundreds take Polar Plunge in Dunedin". Retrieved January 12, 2018 – via www.nzherald.co.nz.
  24. ^ LoveThisPaper (June 17, 2017). "Blimey that's cold! Will you take the polar plunge?". Retrieved January 12, 2018 – via www.nzherald.co.nz.
  25. ^ "Bumper year for Christmas swims". BBC News. December 25, 2015. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  26. ^ "Swimmers brave freezing temperatures on Christmas Day". The Telegraph. December 25, 2010. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  27. ^ Tarver, Nick (December 25, 2013). "Christmas swimmers take the plunge". BBC News. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  28. ^ "Default Parallels Plesk Panel Page". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  29. ^ "Sutton Park Christmas Day swim: Watch brave Brummies plunge into Blackroot Pool". December 25, 2014. Retrieved September 15, 2016.
  30. ^ "Christmas Day Harbour Swim". December 25, 2021. Retrieved October 27, 2022.
  31. ^ "Visit Gibraltar - Previous Events". www.visitgibraltar.gi. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  32. ^ "Locals 'sea' in 2020 with New Year dips". Energy FM. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  33. ^ "Seattle Parks and Recreation - Polar Bear Plunge". seattle.gov. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  34. ^ "Coney Island Polar Bear Club". www.polarbearclub.org. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  35. ^ "Lake George Winter Carnival". www.lakegeorgewintercarnival.com. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  36. ^ hairstylistdude (January 2, 2013). "Polar Bear Plunge Lake George 2013". Archived from the original on December 21, 2021. Retrieved December 29, 2017 – via YouTube.
  37. ^ "Boston Event Calendar January 2010". Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  38. ^ "Jim Stingl - Polar plunging boasts long, chilly history in Milwaukee". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  39. ^ a b "Students Take Icy Plunge in 19th Annual Polar Bear Swim | Dartmouth Now". now.dartmouth.edu. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  40. ^ "Special Olympics New Jersey - Polar Bear Plunge". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  41. ^ "Polar Plunge Presented by Law Enforcement for Special Olympics Minnesota". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  42. ^ a b Abrams, Amanda (February 3, 2009). "Cold Enough For You?". Express. The Washington Post. pp. E7.
  43. ^ "Special Olympics Maryland". somd.convio.net. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  44. ^ "Special Olympics Illinois". Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  45. ^ "Special Olympics Illinois - Polar Plunge". Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  46. ^ "Calendar". Korea Herald. January 3, 2014. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  47. ^ "The 31st Polar Bear Swim Festival". bear.busan.com. Archived from the original on July 30, 2018. Retrieved August 16, 2018.
  48. ^ "Antarctic plunge like 'Waiheke in winter'". Stuff. December 29, 2012. Retrieved January 12, 2018.

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