Polar Bear Plunge: Polar Bears Brrring in the New Year

fort myers beach polar bear plung
Schmidt welcomes the Polar Bear Club to the beach.

Sunday afternoon about 250 die-hard members of the Fort Myers Beach Polar Bear Club raced into the not-very-frigid Gulf of Mexico after fortifying themselves with adult beverages and the great music of Smokin’ Bill & the Smokin’ Section at the Outrigger Resort.

fort myers beach, polar bear plunge
Polar Bear Club members enjoy a brief dip in the Gulf.

They’ve been welcoming the New Year this way for 12 years now.

The concept of a Fort Myers Beach Polar Bear Club grew out of a New Year’s Day beach gathering of friends Dr. Jon Dewers, Bill Schmidt and Ed Herbert.

As they sat in the sun and talked of some of the northern Polar Bear Clubs that celebrate the New Year by jumping into water that hovers in the 30-degree range, they thought a little tongue-in-cheek fun was called for and the Fort Myers Beach Polar Bear Club was born.

This year, the FMB Polar Bear Jump drew well over 200 participants, with nearly as many spectators waiting with cameras ready for the club to arrive at the Gulf.

From seniors to babies, many in colorful costumes, they headed to the 75 degree Gulf of Mexico, where Willie Frey “cut” a hole in the “ice” allowing Schmidt to take the water temperature before the all clear to enter was given.

polar bear plunge on fort myers beach
Chicago Cubs fans put in an appearance and were popular photo subjects.
Polar Bears Brrring in the New Year, polar bear plunge band
Smokin’ Bill & the Smokin’ Section entertain a large crowd on the Outrigger deck. From left: Smokin’ Bill Zink, Nick “the Stick” Longobardi, Meagan Rose, Bill Rountree, Fred Mayer and Doug McGregor

This year’s event, held at the Outrigger Resort, included a 50/50 raffle, t-shirt sales and a silent auction to raise funds for Frey, who has battled cancer for over a year.



Smiles all around after the jump into the Gulf.

Mark your calendar for next January 1st so you can join the fun.


Missy Layfield

Photos by Missy Layfield