I know what you’re thinking: Why on earth would anyone take a winter swim in the Atlantic?
I wanted to find out, so I decided to join the Coney Island Polar Bear Club on one of their regular swims.
The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is the oldest winter bathing organization in the United States. Founded in 1903 by fitness guru Bernarr Macfadden, the polar bears swim at the Coney Island beach every Sunday from November through April.
It was Macfadden’s belief that a dip in the ocean during the winter can be a boon to one’s stamina, virility and immunity. Today, there’s still plenty of people who take a freezing cold dip for possible health benefits. Others do it for the love of water or to stay active at Coney Island. And I suppose a few do it because they’re completely nuts.
Every New Year’s Day, the polar bears raise funds for Camp Sunshine. Camp Sunshine provides respite, support, joy and hope to children with life-threatening illnesses and their immediate families. This year, they hope to raise $80,000– enough to send 32 families to camp. Very cool, no pun intended.