Hundreds brave chilly temps, stiff breeze for the Polar Bear Plunge

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Hundreds of thrill seekers made their way to Milwaukee's Bradford Beach at noon on Thursday, January 1st to be part of something big -- the annual Polar Bear Plunge.

Unlike some years in the past, there was no snow or ice blocking the way of those taking part in this year's plunge.

For some, it's a New Year's Day tradition. For others, it's something they'll only do once. Either way, you have to be a little crazy to jump into Lake Michigan in January!

"I'm a thrill seeker, daredevil. No better way to start off the new year than this!" David Kirkpatrick said.

Tempting fate and hypothermia has become a tradition for many of these mid-winter swimmers.

"It's instantly freezing pain, that's what it is. It's cold. Sometimes I go under so much my head is so frozen I'm beyond the capacity of rational thought," Kirkpatrick said.

FOX6 News found one man who drove for three hours so he could make his 21st consecutive run into Lake Michigan.

"It's kind of like if you had a good year, just keep up tradition. If you have a bad year, wash away the bad year and start all over," Don Kerchefski said.

When the time was right, the crowd raced to the water -- under the supervision of safety officials.

"This is our baptismal ceremonial ritual welcoming in the new year. It's a party-like atmosphere and like I said before, an extension of New Year's. People in Wisconsin just don't want to quit," Kirkpatrick said.

"Worth doing it once. I'll probably never ever do it again," Hannah Jaskulski said.

The gathering even attracts those new to Wisconsin winters. One couple has traded in the beaches of Los Angeles for Bradford Beach.

"We actually put it on Facebook for our friends and I said 'Polar Plunge yes or no?' The votes were yes, so here we are," Leona and Mark Kimball said.

The Polar Bear Plunge website encouraged those who were going to take part to dress layers which are "easy on and off as well as comfortable."

Here's a look at the Sheboygan Polar Bear Plunge:

Monitor FOX6 News and FOX6Now.com for updates and pictures from this event.

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