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Bathers Brave Icy Water for Annual Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

By  Theodore Parisienne and Andrea Swalec | January 1, 2013 4:12pm 

CONEY ISLAND — Frosty temperatures and cloudy skies couldn't stop dozens of daring swimmers from charging into the Atlantic Tuesday afternoon.

Dressed in bikinis, coconut bras and a Stay Puft Marshmallow Man costume, members of the Coney Island Polar Bear Club and others stormed into the water at 1 p.m. Tuesday for the 111th annual New Year's Day dip, despite a forecasted low of 25 degrees for New Year's Day.

"It's a physical challenge, a spiritual challenge and it makes you strong for anything that's coming for this year," said William Castillo, who took part in his fourth plunge.

"When I hit the water, I woke up to 2013."

The bathers screamed, waved American flags and indulged in some pre-plunge drinking in an attempt to stay warm.

According to the club's website, founder and fitness advocate Bernarr Macfadden believed an outdoor winter swim boosted one's "stamina, virility and immunity."

The annual event is free but participants are encouraged to donate to Camp Sunshine, a Maine-based organization that aids children with life-threatening diseases and their families, and ConeyRecovers, a program dedicated to helping Coney Island bounce back from Hurricane Sandy damage.