If you thing it's cold outside, imagine what it must be like for Mr. Mottola.
Mr. Mottola, I understand you know something about Polar Bears.
Yes! I'm president!
Are there other clubs of people who swim outdoors in the winter?
I've uncovered a lot that exist, especially after our TV exposure.
How often do you do it?
Every week, we never stop. During the summer we are involved in ecology, we want the beaches clean and the water around them clean. We swim in the winter in the ice and snow.
You know, people don't get colds from cold weather. They get them from exposure. From a germ. By swimming in the winter we build up a tolerance.
Is that why you do it?
It's a thing of joy. We get what I call a natural high. If you were to take a Turkish towel and rub it on your body vigorously, it would tingle. The blood is circulating. That is precisely what happens in cold water swimming. I know when I come out I feel like I could pick up a car.
What kinds of people are in your club?
Most of our people are senior citizens, in their 60s and 70s. We attract younger people because of the ecology.
You know, it's not accepted here like it is in northern Europe, in Sweden and Finland.
Isn't there a shock to the system when you go in the water?
No. In the summer, the air may be 80 degrees, the water 70 degrees, when you go in immediately you feel a shock. The air temperature may be 10, 5, zero, 15, in winter, but water -- salt water, that is -- hovers around 30. We're going into an area that's warm, so there is no shock.
What do you wear to keep warm?
I wear bikinis.
Can just anybody do it?
Absolutely, we recommend it. We have a big swim every New Year's Day. Anyone who does, we give them a certificate, suitable for farming.
What should someone do to get ready for this kind of swimming?
The preparation is in the mind. You have to want to do it. You look at me and my members: if they can do it, so can I.
how did you get started?
I came east from San Diego in December, 1955. I was taking a walk on the boardwalk at Coney Island and thought, since I had just gotten there, I would take my shoes and socks off and put my feet in the water. To see if it's any different from the Pacific.
On my way back. I met this group. They turned out to be Polar Bears.
But what do doctors think about it?
Most of the doctors say, if it does something for you and you don't get any ill effects from it, enjoy it. You have to remember the doctor is baffled, too.
I can't believe it really feels good.
Your whole body tingles at one time. One thing I have noticed, when you come out no one seems to grab a towel. The wind dries you, the air. You feel so warm coming out. If you are fair complected, your body turns bright red.
Are you married, is your wife a Polar Bear?
I almost got her in two years ago.
Oh then she doesn't mind it.
She catches the cold. I don't.
so when you do it. . .
At Coney Island, every Sunday.
Have you ever gotten any unusual reactions?
One time I was traveling down south and I stayed in a motel with a swimming pool. So I broke the ice and went in. The woman who owned it called the police, she thought I was trying to commit suicide. Some guys across the street, he makes a phone call. Next thing I know there are all these people, cameras. The town was a very quiet town before we got there. The next day on the front page of the paper, there was an article: Polar Bears Invade Our Town.
Anyway, let's just say Polar Bears are from diverse backgrounds, united by their love of being outdoors and the water.
Let me make you an honorary member. I'll send you the card.