Thousands of people gathered on New Year’s Day out at Coney Island to celebrate 2024 in the coldest, wettest way possible, by diving into the Atlantic Ocean.
The event was the 121st annual Polar Bear Plunge — “a baptism for weirdos,” as sideshow performer Faux Pas Lefae put it — and although there certainly have been colder New Year’s plunges out here in recent memory, the temperature was a bracing 40 degrees when the first folks hit the water.
Brisk! (Photo by Scott Lynch)
“I grew up in Sunset Park and have done the plunge about six times,” Lavina Solano told Brooklyn Magazine. “I love the fact that you get to start your New Year fresh in the cold ass water. I just wish I were a little more inebriated.”
The logistics of the day have evolved in the pandemic era. Where once plungers crowded into a narrow chute and tore down the beach into the ocean in carefully timed waves, the event is now more a free swim, with revelers allowed to jump in at any time between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. across a wide swath of beach.
Getting psyched (Photo by Scott Lynch)
Pregaming is rampant (Ruby’s does a brisk business), a dance party always breaks out on the boardwalk, and the great all-women Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line Fogo Azul keeps the crowd jumping on the beach. Brooklyn resident Sam Barcia was into it: “Chanting ‘Po-lar Bears! Po-lar Bears!’ and running into the ocean with the drums banging away, it’s just such a badass way to ring in the New Year.”
Fogo Azul keeping time (Photo by Scott Lynch)
The Plunge is free, but donations are encouraged. As of press time, this year’s event raised $124,181 for local organizations and institutions like the New York Aquarium, the Alliance for Coney Island, the Coney Island History Project, and the Coney Island YMCA.
Photo by Scott Lynch
Rebecca Anih came with a crew all the way from Bayonne, New Jersey, just to freeze her ass off. “It was great.” she said. “Much colder than last year, but this is a new family tradition we’re starting. On New Year’s Day normally people are at home, sleeping in, hungover, but I’m like ‘Wake up! Go out in the ocean! Do something iconic!’ Especially with everything going on in the world, why not?”