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Brrr-ing in the New Year with a dip in the Atlantic

for The Brooklyn Paper
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In Brooklyn, there’s no better way to greet the new year than a case of hypothermia.

But you’d better not be thinking about the dangers of frostbite if you want to join hundreds of swimmers who plunge into the icy Atlantic Ocean at the annual Coney Island Polar Bear Club swim on New Year’s Day.

First-timers are always welcome to partake in the tingly tradition, but don’t worry if you can’t hack it, says club President Dennis Thomas.

“Once you’re in, it’s OK to scream,” he said.

It’s also OK to simply join the thousands of spectators who crowd the beach to watch the swimmers, some dressed in diapers (they’re New Year’s babies!), wigs, full body paint or string bikinis (now that’s just nuts!).

Sure, cold water swimming may be a bit loony, but it’s also a great way to relax, says Brynna Tucker.

“The shock of the cold is intense and it feels wonderful,” said Tucker, a Polar Bear since 2006. “There’s no other feeling like it. If you had a really bad week, the cold is not so bad.”

Thomas also assures sceptics that the club members are not bonkers.

“We’re a very tight-knit community of people from all walks of life that otherwise wouldn’t have met each other,” he said.

As in previous years, the swim will raise money for Camp Sunshine, a retreat that provides support and medical attention for children with life-threatening illnesses. Last year, Camp Sunshine was able to send 20 families from Brooklyn to the free retreat in Casco, Maine. So, as the saying goes, you’re freezing for a reason!

Polar Bear Club swim [meet at the Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue at Coney Island, (917) 533-3568], Jan. 1 at 1 pm. Bathers must bring a suit, towel, footware and warm clothes (for afterwards). For info, visit www.polarbearclub.org.

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