Polar Bear Plunge will kick off 2022 in Coney Island

Plunger typically dress up in costumes for the winter swim.
Photo by Erica Price

It’s a beloved (and daring) holiday tradition! 

Frigid swimmers will head to the shores of Coney Island Beach on Jan. 1 to celebrate the new year, as the beloved Polar Bear Plunge returns after a COVID-related cancelation last year.

“It’s a fantastic way to start the new year, a plunge in the cold ocean will really leave everything behind that you want to leave behind,” said Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, “and I know a lot of people want to get past this year.” 

The 2022 Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge— the 119th edition of the fundraiser — will go on similarly as it did in 2019, after going virtual due to the pandemic last year with the club’s president expecting approximately 3,000 participants, 10,000 spectators with a goal of $80,000 in donations. 

“We’re really excited to be able to host this annual New York tradition one more time,” Thomas told Brooklyn Paper. “Everyone missed it last year we were so sad but the conditions just weren’t right but things are all looking good for January 1.” 

“There is no better way to separate the past from the future than a brisk plunge in the frigid Atlantic with fellow New Yorkers. We look forward to hosting the largest, most spirited plunge in our 119-year history,” Thomas said.

Started in 1903, the Coney Island Polar Bear Club — which boasts the distinction as the longest-running winter bathing club in the country— swims each Sunday between November and April, with members taking in the wintery waters. 

Still, the New Years Day Polar Bear Plunge remains the club’s most highly-attended event every year. The event has grown to double as a fundraiser, with attendees contributing to local nonprofits and a variety of the club’s initiatives throughout the year, such as free public programming and combatting quality of life issues on the peninsula. 

The return of the fundraiser jointly organized by the Alliance for Coney Island was announced on Nov. 29 and already over $2,000 was raised with 125 fundraisers and eight teams beginning to raise money. So far, Joseph Neri has raised the most funds with 32 days left with $400 in donations for the Polar Bear Club. 

Not only do donations support the community, but participants are also eligible for rewards for their involvement and for reaching different amounts of donations — with all participants receiving wristbands for free admission to the New York Aquarium and $2 off flagship beers at Coney Island Brewery; for raising $25 participants will get a polar bear plunge sticker; a long-sleeve 2022 polar plunge shirt; and if participants raise $500 they will get a spot on the director’s tour of the New York Aquarium’s exhibit “Ocean Wonders: Sharks! PLUS.”

Plungers must register ahead of the event, which begins at 1 pm on Jan. 1 on the beach between Stillwell Avenue and W.12th Street, and are asked to arrive no later than noon for check-in on the Riegelmann Boardwalk at the intersection of Stillwell Avenue that will begin at 10 am. 

Participants can register as a team or individually, and are required to sign a waiver the day of the plunge. If under 18 years old, a parent or guardian must be present to sign the waiver.