On New Year’s Day January 1st this year, our very own Erica Price went to document the annual pilgrimage that is the Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge. Organized by the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, which has its own street named after it, the group is the “oldest winter bathing organization in the United States” as its claim to fame.

Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge . Jan 1st 2016.

The club was founded in 1903 by a Bernarr Macfadden, a Victorian era bodybuilder and celebrity. The winter ocean plunge was founded on the belief that it was a “boon to one’s stamina, virility and immunity,” and as the Polar Bear Club website writes, early members of this club included New York City Deputy Police Commissioner George S. Dougherty and Supreme Court Justice Crater, long famed for his disappearance.

Today, the event is also a great place to check out creative bathing costumes. As Erica tells us,

“The excitement of the upcoming cold plunge (which is more invigorating than any cup of coffee) and new year’s initial positivity is really infectious. People are in overall good spirits and many don’t mind being photographed. This year the water was around 50 degrees, not the coldest of the past seasons.”

Check out more photographs from the 2016 Polar Bear Plunge here:

Check out photos from previous years here.