With temperatures in the 50s, New Yorkers in Coney Island kicked off 2023 with the 120th Annual Polar Bear plunge.
“We were in the water for 15 minutes, and something about it, it’s so refreshing and it feels free, and what a day to start jumping in the water and set 2023,” Jin Smith said as she came out of the water and onto the beach.
Convinced by her friends, Smith decided to do it for the first time.
“It was a last-minute impromptu. I packed my stuff in 10 minutes, and here we are,” Smith said.
Organizers expected around 40,000 spectators.
Whether people were taking a dip or cheering on the sand, they all agree that there is something special about it that keeps them coming back year after year.
“It feels like needles stabbing my legs but whenI got out I felt amazing,” Henry Schmeimann said.
“People get excited, it's the new year, they're excited for the new year and it’s just a long running tradition that people love to come and do,” John Caleindo said.
“There could not be a better way to kick off the new year,” Molly Wharton said. This was her first time doing the plunge as well.
Around 4,000 people ran into the water. This year’s plunge is expected to be the largest turnout in the event's history.
“Part of it is probably post covid people want to get out, part of it is certainly it is going to be a glorious and beautiful day,” Coney Island Polar Bear Club President, Dennis Thomas said.
Though it’s free to do the plunge, the organizers ask for donations. This year's event supports the Alliance for Coney Island, the NY Aquarium and other local nonprofits to help the Coney Island community.
“New York has been very generous. We expect for that to continue,” Thomas said.
This year's event is expected to raise around $100,000.