BUSAN, South Korea — How many times have you gone to Haeundae Beach during the summer and wished you had the open water all to yourself? Well, now you almost can but it will be winter instead, at the 27th Polar Bear Swimming Festival on January 12th.
The yearly event, which occupies the top spot on the BBC’s Top 10 Unusual Winter Sports list, draws well over 3,000 participants every year. Starting with a morning of beachfront activities, participants then take the plunge into the icy-cold waters off Haeundae Beach.
The Polar Bear Swimming Festival was held for the first time in 1988 to celebrate the Seoul Olympics. After starting with only 100 participants taking the polar bear dip, the swim has since grown into one of Korea’s most popular outdoor winter events.
Over the years, the swim has become increasingly well-known worldwide, as participants from around various countries travel to Busan to take the shiver-inducing plunge. Prior to the swim, participants have a group run along the beach to warm up, and then they hit the water. They can stay in for as long as they like (or as long as they can stand it!).
Registration for the event is strongly encouraged to be done in advance. The process is as simple as going online and signing up (bear.busan.com). The registration fee of 20,000 won can then be paid online or transferred from an ATM at any of the major banks. As a souvenir, participants receive a commemorative t-shirt, beach towel, and a ticket to the hot springs.
Perhaps the most important memento will be the photos of the event to show friends and family back home about that fun, crazy morning when thousands of people took a dip in the middle of the winter.
Event: 27th Polar Bear Swimming Festival
Date: January 12, 2014
Where: Haeundae Beach, Busan.
Directions: From Busan Station, take bus No. 1003 (express) to Haeundae Beach, and get off near the Novotel Ambassador Hotel beside the beach. By subway, get off at Haeundae Station (Line 2, Exit 3) and walk straight for 10 minutes towards the beach.
Registration Fee: 20,000won (includes event t-shirt and other goodies)
Registration Date: Dec. 2nd 2013 – Dec. 27th 2013
How to register: Sign up at the homepage (bear.busan.com) and transfer the fee online or from an ATM.
For more info visit the official website: bear.busan.com