Published: Jan 02, 2012 5:36 AM EST
Updated: Jan 02, 2012 5:57 AM EST

SANIBEL - If you're not brave enough to take the Polar Bear Plunge in other parts of the country, then Sanibel is the place for you. New Year's Day marked the 12th annual Sanibel Polar Bear Plunge.

At Tarpon Bay Beach, the water temperature hovered around 70 degrees Sunday afternoon. But for Polar Bears from the north, the plunge was easy.

"This isn't cold," laughs Charlie Reid, a veteran plunger, "it never gets to 70 in New Hampshire."

"It was cold but I'm from Michigan, so this was very warm compared to Michigan," said Katy York, who made the plunge for the first time with her family.

The plunge was started in 2001 by John Carney. But for the veteran plungers this year has a special meaning. The Grand Pooh Bear, John Carney, wasn't able to brave the waters. He's battling throat cancer.

"He's a really good guy to pull people together," said Reid, "last year was 239 people and this year I think we broke the record."

After spending a few minutes in the water, nearly 300 people are now certified members of the Sanibel National Polar Bear Club.