Select Page

Lake Michigan’s freezing waves wallop participants at 2019 Polar Bear Plunge

Hundreds of people braved the frigid shores of the Great Lake at Bradford Beach to take the annual January 1 Polar Bear Plunge and usher in the New Year.

With an air temperature that averaged 24°, participants were greeted with a series of 2-foot waves. In spite of the weather, the conditions were far better than 2018. Last year saw sunny skies, but the beach area was encrusted with hazardous ice and a near record -14° windchill.

This year found more fire pits and camps spread along the length of the beach. Crowds entering the freezing water were displaced into smaller clusters as a result, instead of past years where people took the plunge in a more confined spot.

This video segment and photo essay captured the unique Milwaukee winter tradition, as community residents braved frigid conditions to join the first public event of the New Year.

About The Author

Lee Matz

A Milwaukee native, Lee worked internationally for years as an award-winning foreign photojournalist based in Asia. He was also Wisconsin's first war correspondent to report from Ukraine in 2022. Lee proudly uses MCTS as the exclusive mode of transportation for covering all his local news assignments.