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PHOTOS: Jones Beach Polar Bears Take Annual New Year's Day Ocean Dip

Group of Jones Beach lifeguards and family members gathers in Wantagh for first venture into Atlantic Ocean of 2012.

Dozens of local people did not wait long for their first their first dip into the Atlantic Ocean in 2012.

A group known as the Jones Beach Polar Bear Club continued its New Year’s Day tradition Sunday afternoon of venturing into the frigid ocean waters off Field 6 in Wantagh. The Jones Beach Polar Bear Club is open to Jones Beach lifeguards, family and friends and has been taking its annual New Year’s Day ocean dip for the past 44 years.

The group’s unofficial leader is 84-year old Reggie Jones, who was a lifeguard at Jones Beach for 64 years before retiring two years ago.

“It is the ultimate stress test,” Jones said.  “If you go in there and your heart does not stop, you are good for the rest of the year.”

New Year’s Day 2012 brought far more seasonable weather than usual for the Jones Beach Polar Bear Club’s holiday tradition with temperatures in the low 50’s.

“This is my eight year and the nicest day I can remember,” said Tom Labella before he took his ocean dip. “The temperatures are milder than usual.”

After a run on the beach to warm up, the Jones Beach Polar Bear Club members without much hesitation headed into the approximately 48-degree Fahrenheit ocean waters for a quick dive under the oncoming waves.

Following the swim, festivities ended with happy swimmers toasting 2012 with champagne and sipping warm coffee to get the blood flowing.

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