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Thousands Of Brave Souls Take Part In Annual Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- It's a New Year's tradition more than 100 years in the making -- thousands of people gathered on the beach on Coney Island to take part in the yearly Polar Bear Plunge.

Participants say it's a shock to the system that helps ring in 2019 the right way.

Tuesday's plunge was the warmest in at least the past five years, and that made for a higher than normal turnout with 2,500 slated to strip down at the 115th annual Brighton Beach/Coney Island event.

The brave souls raced into the ocean near Boardwalk and Stillwell Avenues, with tons of people watching from a safe distance cheering on with towels at the ready.

The 45-degree water temperature felt balmy compared to 2018's conditions, which were the coldest in a century.

The plunge raises money for charity, so each participant is encouraged to donate or raise funds that go towards organizations such as the New York Aquarium.

Some say the plunge into the chilly sea has a number of health benefits such as stimulated blood flow and heightened energy, but we'll take the swimmers' word for it.

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