Polar Bear Swim Day

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Around the world people come together on January 1st to test their mettle against Mother Nature and resolve to do great, adventurous things in the new year.

One way is with the annual Polar Bear Swim, where ordinary people jump and swim in freezing cold bodies of water to prove they’ve got what it takes to succeed in the future.

Well known swims happen yearly all across the U.S. and Canada. The Coney Island Polar Bear has been meeting for the annual ice bathing on New Year’s Day since 1903. Thousands flock to the seaside to start their year off with an nonseasonal ocean swim. You can pre-register for this event online in the October prior to the swim. Members of this club don’t limit themselves just to New Years Day, but dedicated members also take the plunge every Sunday between November and April.

In Vancouver, Canada, the English Bay Polar Bear Swim has been attracting participants looking to bring in the New Year with a sobering dip in the Pacific Ocean since 1920. This isn’t just for fun and games, they also aim to help their community by encouraging spectators and swimmers to bring non-perishable food items or cash donations to help replenish and assist the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. One year the Park Board and Cactus Club Cafe helped raise 287 pounds of food and $1,330 for the food bank. Now that should warm your heart!

In West Seattle, Washington along the beach across from Duke’s, friends hold hands and run into the Puget Sound at 10am sharp. Participants are told to bring water shoes, a towel, a change of clothes and your hopes and dreams for the new year. They believe running into the water with friends and family will help you leave behind the complexities of 2016 and start the new year clean and burden-free.

The Chicago Polar Bear Club was founded by Brian Marchal, who wanted to join such a club but couldn’t find one near him. Not daunted by this fact, he started his own (originally the Lakeview Polar Bear Club was founded in 2001). Only 3 people joined him to jump in Lake Michigan that first year, but since then it has grown quite large. They also use this opportunity to raise money to help the unfortunate. Since it’s inception, the non-profit club has supported 20 great families with support and donations.

In Bradford Beach, Milwaukee the swim takes place at noon. They provide a little more detail to their participants on what to expect:

Take deep breaths and walk slowly into the water. Running may cause you to fall and get hurt. The water maybe icy. The bottom tends to be rocky and it’s always extremely cold, prepare yourself for your body to feel like it’s going into shock. The Milwaukee Fire Department Paramedics are in the water waiting in the event of someone needing assistance.

After the Plunge: Get dried off and dressed before you leave the beach. Remove all wet clothing and get into dry clothes as soon as possible. Bring Warm dry socks and winter boots. Your feet are your first warming priority. Bring heating packs for your hands and feet. Layering sweatshirts and sweatpants are recommended after you get out of the water.  Towels and wool blankets, a sleeping bag is also highly recommended.

If you need a new item on your bucket list, consider registering for this event next year. Most start planning around October for the event. There are even T-shirts and bragging rights to be had for surviving the plunge.

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