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New Yorkers perform polar bear plunge at Coney Island

A person in a shark costume directs Polar Bear Club swimmers before their annual icy plunge into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2018, at Coney Island in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images)

New Yorkers perform polar bear plunge at Coney Island

The sky was sunny and the water was freezing at Coney Island, where several hundred people, cheered on by hundreds more, ran into the ocean Monday to mark the start of 2018.

While some dressed like Elvis or vikings, others wore nothing but bathing suits at the annual Coney Island New Year’s Day Polar Plunge, a New York tradition since 1903.

With the temperature sitting at a frigid 17 degrees, (minus 8 Celsius) some said the water was warmer, at 37 degrees (almost 3 Celsius).

Supporters stood by with towels and warm robes as the hardy souls returned from the sea. The event raises money for charities including, the Alliance for Coney Island, The New York Aquarium, and others. Organizers raised $80,000 last year, when temperatures were about 50 degrees (10 degrees Celsius).

Dennis Thomas, president of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, conceded that participation was down this year because of the cold, but he had no final estimate on how much was raised.

“Jumping into the cold water really kind of puts a period at the end of the sentence of 2017,” said Thomas, who has been involved with the club for 30 years. Swimmers gather every Sunday from November through April, as well as on New Year’s Day.

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