The water’s frigid! Brooklynites dive into Atlantic at Coney New Year’s Day plunge

Fish on land: These fish ditched the frigid waters and opted for land instead at the annual Coney Island Polar Bear Club New Year’s Day Plunge.
Photo by Paul Martinka

There was no room for cold feet on this beach!

The bravest of Brooklynites converged on Coney Island Beach on the first day of 2018 to take part in a more-than-century-old tradition of starting the new year with a plunge into the icy January waters. But temperatures in the mid-teens meant that this year’s event wasn’t as well attended as years past, according to the president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, which organizes the frigid festivities.

“It was cold,” said Dennis Thomas. “I think the previous years have been notable because they’ve been unusually warm.”

Indeed, the 37-degree water temperatures cut the crowd down from last year’s 2,500 swimmers — who happily headed for the waters in the 53-degree heat — by about half, to 1,200 this year, according to Thomas. But the splashy swimmers still managed to raise about $43,000 for local organizations, including the Alliance for Coney Island, Coney Island USA, and the New York Aquarium, according to Thomas.

A deejay spun tunes to pump up locals before the 1 pm start time, when the horde of brash Brooklynites lunged for the waves, where they flailed and dove while trying to retain some feeling in their limbs. And after they emerged from the waters unscathed — with some in costume as grizzly bears, fish, lobsters, and even unicorns — they warmed up with hot chocolate provided by local Kitchen 21. Others headed to after parties at the Coney Island Brewing Company and the Steeplechase Bear Garden.

The frigid temperatures ultimately didn’t put a chill on the day’s party vibe, according to Thomas, who added that the annual event retains a hype all its own.

“Despite the cold, people were excited and energetic,” he said. “Even in this kind of weather, it’s a big New Year’s party, still.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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