Polar Bear Plunge 2014 Draws 2,500 Daring Swimmers to Coney Island

Image: Polar Bear Plunge 2014 Draws 2,500 Daring Swimmers to Coney Island

Thursday, 02 Jan 2014 08:27 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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Thousands of daring swimmers took the Polar Bear Plunge at Coney Island Wednesday, carrying on a tradition that's been alive for the past 110 years.

According to the New York Daily News, an estimated 2,500 swimmers dunked themselves in the 41-degree Atlantic Ocean Wednesday as part of the Polar Bear Plunge Club's annual New Year's Day celebration.

Some came clad in Santa suits, others in bikinis, but all the plungers talked about the rush of adrenaline that comes with the icy swim.

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"It felt like death. When people say hell froze over, there it is," first-time plunger Eddie Law, of the Upper East Side, told the Daily News.

"It felt like a magic drug. My whole body feels like it's tingling but not in a bad way," said Kate Minall, a paralegal from Staten Island. "It's just like a shock — how am I doing this right now? It's like a whole- body high."

For some it was a first, but for others it was just tradition.

"We don't have many traditions but this is the main one," said Ben Peters, who completed the plunge with his girlfriend, Ava Chinelli. "It symbolizes getting rid of and conquering fears and diving into the new year headfirst — literally!"

It's also a tradition for 80 to 100 members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge Club who take a chilly dunk in the Atlantic every Sunday from November through April.

Though Polar Bear swims are generally considered safe, health experts caution participants to understand how the cold will affect their bodies prior to taking the plunge.

Dr. Thomas Traill, a cardiologist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said the icy swim immediately causes a spike in blood pressure and heart rate, along with possible hyperventilation. The cold then seeps down into the muscles and can temporarily paralyze a person, leaving them unable to coordinate their movements.

"The important thing for the polar bear swimmers is that they shouldn't do this alone, and they shouldn't do it out of their depth," Traill told "Good Morning America."

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