San Pedro, California In 1953, a wonderful custom was established, which has endured to this day. During the Cabrillo Beach Polar Bears’ annual Polar Bear Plunge, they crown the year’s King and Queen and take a dip in the ocean to inaugurate the year’s official representatives, who will be in charge of various events throughout the year.
Some think the New Year’s swim custom dates back as far as anyone can recall, which would put it much further in the past than most people realise. It was also once part of the tradition to bring “King Neptune” to shore and officiate the event. John Olguin and Jack Cheaney were among the original members of Polar Bear. The original Polar Bear logo was drawn by Muriel Olguin.
In 1985, Ray Falk persuaded City Council to designate the Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse as the Polar Bears’ official home. Several members’ portraits can be found on the walls of the building. When Falk and other members decided to embrace parts of the Dolphin Group in San Francisco, they raised their club to a new level (formed in 1877.) With a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Board of Directors, the Polar Bear Club has an administrative staff. Club members pick a King and Queen each year to represent the club at community events including San Pedro Christmas Parade, which has a polar bear float
When the club initially started the polar bear swims on New Year’s Day around eight years later, members would bring cookies and coffee and chocolate to share with the public that was invited to take the first freezing swim of the season, which took place around Noon each year. At the yearly New Year’s swim, the person who went the farthest to participate is frequently awarded prizes. The number of swimmers has expanded from roughly 100 to 500-1,000 over the years. It takes place near the Old Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse, near the main lifeguard tower.
The primary goal of the group is to routinely swim in the water, and it has anything from 20 to 100 members at any given moment. Swimming, fitness, and community involvement are all part of its mission statement.
Swimming in 57-degree water is nothing new for the Polar Bears, who do it on a daily basis. However, this time-honored habit isn’t for everyone. Members of the club enjoy watching the expressions on the faces of individuals who have never experienced the pleasure before.
Officiating is unnecessary. The ocean is a wonderful place to swim. Swimming is the club’s sole focus, and it is housed in the historic Cabrillo Beach Bathhouse.
Since 1961, former kings and queens have included Gregory Jilzov and Emily Copp; 1964 – Willi Hoefke; 1969 – David Jones; 1974-Victor Pappas; 1975-Jack Carr; 1976-Albert R. Rea, Mary Bertsch Samaras.