Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club-Take the New Year’s Day Plunge for a good cause and shrinkage 2013

Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club-Take the New Year’s Day Plunge for a good cause and shrinkage 2013

December 29, 2012 1 By ScottyB

The Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club’s Annual “take the plunge” on New Year’s Day is set once again for January 1, 2013. These guys are looking forward to bringing in the New Year with some major shrinkage for a good cause for the Salvation Army’s Project Bundle Up.

Since the early 1930’s, The Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club has been taking the plunge into the icy waters of the Monongahela River on the morning of New Year’s Day. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to make the festivities because I cherish my Lithuanian man parts. However, in 2013 you can count us all in.

From the 1960′s on, the yearly pilgrimage to T-Bag the Mon has grown from 8-10 people, to well over 1,000 plus jumping from the Monongahela Wharf into the river for 2013. Each year sees more and more generations coming back.

The City of Pittsburgh will have rescue personnel and equipment on the Monongahela Wharf just in case you go from swimming in cold water, to becoming an anchor and sinking. They will also provide heated tents. Sorry guys no heater for your junk, it’ll be tucked away like a scared turtle anyway.

History of the Plunge

I spoke with Frank Nelson this afternoon about the unique polar plunge and how the Polar Bear Club came to be. Frank has been the President of The Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club for over 42 years. Frank took his very first plunge when he was 16 years old while living on Mount Washington, and has not missed a plunge in all these years.

How does someone become president of jumping in cold water wearing a speedo? Well, if you can stay in water that averages 28-34 degrees in January for more than 42 minutes like Frank, the job is yours. Frank mentions he’d like to stay in longer, but the EMS personnel have to persuade him each year to get out.

Frank explains how he met a guy by the name of Gus Brickner of Charleroi. Gus loved to swim the rivers regardless of weather, temperature, or season. You can actually find Gus in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest person to stay in cold water. Guinness finally stopped keeping the cold water record, for fear people would die from trying to break Gus’s feat.


The first Polar Bear event in Pittsburgh 1928
Gus Brickner of Charleroi
“The Human Polar Bear”
Holds 2 Guinness Records:
Ice Water Swim Champion with 6 min, 22 sec swim in -18ºF water,
World’s Distance Swimming Champion with 38,500 miles
Frank Nelson, President
Pittsburgh Polar Bear Club
Phone: 724-863-0866
Frank’s first river plunge was in 1966

People start arriving at the Monongahela Wharf parking area around 8 am. Officially the plunge into the river doesn’t start till 9:30 am. Keep in mind you may have to park in downtown, or in Station Square if you don’t get there early enough. It fills up quick…