Ice skating in undies and annual Alcatraz swim offer chilly thrills in San Francisco

The New Year got off to a chilly start around the Bay Area. For most, a trip to the ice rink means bundling up. But, some stripped down to their swimsuits to welcome the New Year and some took it one step further coming out on Tuesday the same way they came into the world.

Prepping for the Polar Bear Skate at Union Square meant wearing summer apparel on this winter day. Clad in bikinis, Speedos and sunglasses, ice skaters of all levels participated in the annual competition. 

 "I was just online and looking at the events and I was like, 'Let's ice skate in our bikinis.' So, I made my outfit, and I was like, 'Let's do it!'" said Sierra Camelich.

The idea here, to stand out, not wipe out.  "It's probably not going to feel very good, but that's part of the fun, right" asked Joe Houston.

Although technically a competition, most of the competitors said they were here for the whimsy not the win.

"There's a lot going on on New Years Day, but this is definitely one of those crazy San Francisco things, and I tend to participate in all of those," said Houston.

The annual New Year's Day competition at the Safeway Holiday Ice Rink, has been a fixture since 2008. Prizes include a night's stay at the Hilton Union Square Hotel. The tradition supposedly began in Canada. 

And if the thought of skating in a swim suit wasn't cold enough, hundreds took the plunge literally, starting their day and their New Year off rushing into the Pacific Ocean.

The water temperature was just over 53 degrees.

"Freezing cold, but worth it," said Andrea Castro. "It was my second year doing this with my daughter, my bathing suit broke as I was running in, but we went for it."

But, for some it wasn't a wardrobe malfunction, but rather a conscious choice.

A small but dedicated group started the year off with a naked bike ride. Then a plunge into the ocean-- saying it was just the way to start off 2019.

"For us it was just something to do and we're nudists, we go go nude beaches, nude resorts; this was just something different that we've never done in the past," said Nancy Harris.

New Year's Eve night's extreme wind rerouted the annual New Year's Day morning mile and a quarter swim off Alcatraz Island. Instead, participants swam inside the breakwater and cove at Aquatic Park. Swimmers completed the same distance. 

The annual event is hosted by the South End Rowing Club, which was founded in San Francisco in 1873.   

Remember, it's just 171 days until summer, but some just can't seem to wait.

Bay City News contributed to this report