The U.S. Winter Swimming Association (USWSA) teamed up with the Coney Island Polar Bear Club to bring 60 swimmers from Finland, Russia, Canada and several American cities to brave the frigid waters of the Hudson River for the all-day event Saturday.
With water temperatures expected to be at 35 degrees — and potentially even colder, organizers said — swimmers will compete in several races and events, with dividers for the meets set up in the river.
"These are a small group of swimmers that swim year-round and compete at outdoor swimming events," said Cristian Vergara, president of USWSA, noting that the participants have been finalized and not anyone can just show up to compete.
Although the USWSA organization has only been around since 2014, it's participated in events in Europe and China, often drawing up to 300 swimmers, Vergara said.
Participants enjoy the sport for the healthy lifestyle it promotes and the immune-system boost it gives seasoned swimmers after a cold plunge, he added.
"Winter swimming is a spectacular sport," USWSA organizer, founding member and swimming participant Melissa O’Reilly said. "Seeing swimmers get into the freezing cold water [and] not jumping out screaming — they’re actually getting in and swimming distances, as as if it’s a pool."
The location at La Marina makes the event ideal, as viewers can camp out in the venue's indoor space to watch, with the George Washington Bridge acting as the backdrop, Vergara said.
The event is free to spectators and will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.