Coney Island Polar Bear plunge draws hundreds on a mild day

By the standards of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club, it was practically a day at the beach for participants in the annual New Year's Day dip in the ocean off New York City.

Hundreds of people took the plunge Tuesday afternoon when the unseasonably warm temperature was in the high 50s.

It was quite a departure from last year when the temperature was just 17 degrees.

"It's fabulous and freezing all at once," said Michelle Poire, a city resident. "It makes you feel alive and it's a wonderful way to bring in the new year."

It was balmy enough that some could linger a little longer than years' past, turning what might have been a mad dash into a summerlike frolic. Others played volleyball to distract from the chilly temperature of the water.

"The best part of the tradition is you cleanse off last year and it's like a baptism and you start the new year fresh," said Arthur Aidala. "God bless America."

"Happy New Year!" one swimmer shouted.

"I did it! Amazing. It's a beautiful beginning of the new year," said a woman who emerged from the water and identified herself only as Marta.

Some participants Tuesday dressed as Santa, sharks, an inflatable gummy bear or in other costumes as they took to the Atlantic Ocean.

They say it's a way to start the new year fresh by washing off 2018.

The New York event goes back to 1903 and raises money for various charities.