Coney Polar Bear Club Takes Nippy New Year Dip

Swimming, anyone? The cold is part of the fun!

Some hearty swimmers took a plunge into 2010 in New York City -- and chilled out at the same time.

Members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and other slightly crazed bathers stripped down to their trunks or dressed up in costumes Friday for the annual New Year's Day dip.

The swim began with the crack of a starter's pistol and a mad dash for the water.

Some people hit the surf dressed only in a thong. Another man wore a suit made out of subway cards. Almost everyone screamed at the shock of cold water hitting their skin.

Sure, it's freezing, but no, the swimmers aren't exactly crazy. Well, maybe some of them are.

In response to the question, "Are you folks nuts?" the club posts the following response on its Web site

"We're just a group of people from all walks of life who deeply enjoy the activity of cold water swimming. Some do it for possible health benefits. Some do it for the love of water. Some do it to stay active at Coney Island. And others, well, maybe a few of us are nuts. But all do it for the fun of it. If it's not fun, then stay out of the water."

While the cold could expose swimmers to conditions like hypothermia or frostbite, no member in club memory has ever suffered from either of those problems as a result of their participation, according to the club's Web site.

Club members swim off Coney Island every Sunday from November through April. They invite others to join them for the New Year's Day swim. It raises money for Camp Sunshine, which helps children with life-threatening illnesses.

The club, founded in 1903, is the oldest winter bathing organization in the country, according to its Web site.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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