Polar bear swim kicks off 2015 in San Pedro, and the water is fine

Californians take a plunge from Cabrillo Beach to kick off new year

The new year often comes as a shock to the Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears, who inaugurated 2015 with their annual swim in San Pedro on Thursday.  

The group kicked off their event with the coronation of the 2015 polar bear king and queen, Zach Ramirez and Toni O'Donnell, followed by a dip in bracing ocean waters at noon.

Southern California has been in the grip of a cold front, making this year's swim seem a little more daring. 

At about 11 a.m. it was 49 degrees in San Pedro, with a forecast high of 60. The water was a bit warmer -- 60 degrees -- said the National Weather Service.

Nineteen-year-old Monica Bender said the water was just fine.

"This was one of the nicest polar bear swims we've done," said the San Pedro resident, who participates every year with pal Amy Fistonich, also 19. The pair, dressed as Thing 1 and Thing 2, said they had been coming for the last five or six years.

"It's great to start the new year with the ocean," Fistonich said.

"It's like a renewal of our friendship," Bender added.

Polar bear clubs in other parts of the nation would likely scoff at those with goosebumps in San Pedro. The Coney Island Polar Dip in New York, for instance, is a plunge in the icy Atlantic. Thousands in the Netherlands make a mad dash into the North Sea on the first day of each year. And in a related vein, there are those who go streaking at the South Pole when the temperature reaches minus-100.

The Pacific off San Pedro sounds pretty cozy compared with that. On Facebook, club members urged participants to bring a nice warm jacket or robe for after the swim.

The plunge mirrors dips of years past for the club, which is dedicated to swimming, fitness and community service. The club was formed in 1953.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

1:30 p.m.: This post has been updated with comments from participants.

The post was originally published at 11:55 a.m.

52°