Crazy or Crazy Fun Polar Swim on New Year’s Day?

Boston is full of traditions.  One of the craziest, by far, is the New Year’s Day dip by the L Street Brownies alongside other hearty and perhaps fool-hearty Bostonians into the frigid temperatures of Dorchester Bay adorned in nothing more than their bathing suits and chattering smiles.

The annual tradition, which officially started back in 1904 making it the oldest polar bear swimming club in the nation, occurs just outside of the L Street Bathhouse in South Boston at Carson Beach. Everyone is an honorary Brownie for the day and last year more than 600 brave souls splashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Registration begins at 9AM and the swim starts promptly at 10AM, with the last folks exiting the water at 11. It is free to participate, but a $1 donation will get you an official L St. Brownie membership card. Proceeds benefit the South Boston Sports Hall of Fame Scholarship

Dressing and undressing can be taken care of indoors at the host site Boston Centers for Youth & Family’s Curley Community Center at 1663 Columbia Road in South Boston. Scholarships are awarded annually to resident South Boston high school seniors.

Pre-plunge on 1-1-11, are a host of festivities including a party beginning at 8:30AM at the L Street Tavern to benefit Scleroderma Foundation. Warm up with doughnuts, coffee and some Irish music before being led at 9:20AM to the bath house by Kevin Conroy’s 103rd Postal Fire Column Pipe and Drums.

Whether a participant or a spectator, everyone is welcome back to the L Street Tavern post plunge for more revelry and fun (and certainly a libation or two) with Kevin Conroy and his band.

You never hear word of frostbite following the swim but every year, I just can’t help but wonder.  I think the truth is most people go in, splash around quite a bit to make a big show of it and then get out quick… there is little actual swimming going on.  But if you are hearty enough, it sure does sound like a foolishly fun good time and worth a story or two after the fact as well.