Coney Island Polar Bear Club: From Brooklyn to China and back February 18, 2015 06:03

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It is a Coney Island Polar Bear tradition to circle up, hoot and holler before a Sunday swim at 1 PM. This tradition helps ground members while keeping things light-hearted during frigid cold swims. | Photo found on Coney Island Polar Bear Member Facebook Group

Meet the Coney Island Polar Bears!  They have been putting their Surf-fur waterproof parkas to the ultimate field tests this winter, keeping their club members warm and happy on the beaches of Brooklyn and all the way across the globe in Jinan, China.

“You have to qualify to become an official member of our club,” advocated Coney Island Polar Bear Club Vice President Robbie Bailey. “Our season goes from November to April, and you must complete 12 swims [in bitter cold waters] in order to be eligible for membership. Once you complete your swims, our members vote and those who are selected are awarded their right of passage: the polar bear patch and bragging rights.”

One of the outstanding fundraising efforts the Coney Island Polar Bear Club hosts annually is the The Coney Island Polar Dip.

“We hold a public plunge to benefit Camp Sunshine which is a kid’s camp located in Maine that caters to children with life threatening illnesses,” empathized Bailey. This yearly tradition has been occurring since 1903, “even though most Polar Bears don’t swim that day,” she adds.

This January the club raised $72,000 with 2,500 people participating in the plunge and another 5,000 on the beach spectating. “Everyone in New York knows about the Polar Bear’s Dip on New Year’s Day. It’s on everyone’s bucket list to do at least one time,” rejoiced Bailey.

Polar Bear Jackets front

The First Taierzhuang Winter Swimming Festival (L to R) Coney Island Polar Bear Members David Bosch, Seth Bornstein, Bill Bradley, Jin (Organizer of the Swimming Event) and George Glum | Photo courtesy: Seth Bornstein

Another opportunity the Coney Island Polar Bear Club participated in was the First Taierzhuang Winter Swimming Festival held last year. Representing the Polar Bear Club, members David Bosch, Seth Bornstein, Bill Bradley, and George Glum took time away from their lives to brave the elements abroad.

Member Seth Bornstein recounts his experience in his blog Swimming to China: “Clearly this was more than a recreational swim. After lunch we were told to change into our swimsuits and were escorted over to a central plaza overlooking the Grand Canal. We were treated to another ceremony and speeches… and then protected by police from the crowds, we walked a red carpet in our swim trunks and in groups jumped into the canal while thousands of onlookers along the shore and on the bridges watched.  After the swim we were deluged by people seeking photographs of foreigners with hairy chests.”

Polar Bear Jackets back

The First Taierzhuang Winter Swimming Festival (L to R) Coney Island Polar Bear Members George Glum and Bill Bradley | Photo courtesy: Seth Bornstein

The Coney Island Polar Bears next adventure will be the 2015 Winter Swimming Championships in Newport, Vermont! This is the first event of its kind here in the United States.

The brochure announces that “USWSA and Kingdom Games have partnered to construct a 25-meter, two lane swimming pool in the ice on Lake Memphremagog,” and “has long been a great place for outdoor sports and recreation.”

A dozen Polar Bear members will participate in the February 21st-22nd swim competition. We asked Bailey, who is one of that dozen participating, how she would stay warm and how she was preparing.

“We are grateful for our Surf-fur waterproof parkas. It’s been a bitter cold winter and we feel that your protective gear was custom made for our purposes. I mean, we wear them every week and we travel with them. We will take them with us to this event, too,” Bailey asserted.

“How do you prepare?” she answered. “We swim every Sunday for fun. We dip, but this is different. It’s a swim meet. It’s a big hole in the lake. You just kinda have to do it.”

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The swimming lanes that are currently being cut for the 2015 Winter Swimming Championships . Brrr! | Photo credit: Phil White

More information about the Coney Island Polar Bear Club can be found at www.PolarBearClub.org.

More information about the members trip to the First Taierzhuang Winter Swimming Festival can be found at swimmingtochina.wordpress.com.

More information about the 2015 Winter Swimming Championships can be found at www.uswsa.org/USWSAChampionship.pdf.

Order your Surf-fur waterproof parka at www.Surf-fur.com.


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