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New year's "polar bears" in San Francisco and points south.

Perhaps it's a distant calling from the oceanic era of human evolution, but come January 1 hordes of aquaphiles gather on the coast for their first dip of the year.

Each New Year's Day, the membership of two clubs braves the chilly (low 50s) water off San Francisco. Both events are for members and guests only, but they're entertaining to watch. The more inviting Southern California surf (in the low 60s) offers three opportunities for visiting swimmers to plunge into the New Year. Here's where the action will be from north to south.

San Francisco. Members of the Dolphin Club will row and swim the treacherous 1.2-mile passage across the Bay from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park. Starting time will be about 9:40 A.M. Aquatic Park is at the foot of Van Ness Avenue.

Continuing a 91-year-old tradition, the Olympic Club will frolic in the froth at Ocean Beach. At 8 A.M., 500 Olympians, their sons, and guests will hike along the Great Highway from the foot of Lincoln Way to the foot of Sloat Boulevard (near the zoo), where they'll hit the Pacific at 9:30.

Los Angeles. At Venice City Beach, the Penguin Club invites people to join them at noon for a New Year's Day swim, as they have since 1960. If you swim 50 yards out from the beach and 50 back, you'll get a certificate from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks; $10 gets you a T-shirt. You're likely to see celebrities at this event. A king, queen, prince, and princess will be crowned. Call (213) 390-5392. From Lincoln Boulevard (State 1), turn toward the ocean on Venice Boulevard; turn right (north) on Pacific Avenue, then left on Windward Avenue to the beach. If it's good beachgoing weather, there may be a $3 parking fee.

At Cabrillo Beach, the Cabrillo Polar Bear Club will hold its annual swim (since 1936) at noon. Participants must submerge themselves completely to qualify for a free certificate that records date and water temperature. A commemorative patch, newly designed each year, costs $2. Festivities include the crowning of king and queen polar bears; there'll be free hot cocoa, coffee, and doughnuts. Call (213) 548-7562. From the Harbor Freeway (I-110, formerly State 11), exit south on Gaffey Street; turn left at 22nd Street for 2 blocks to Pacific Avenue and turn right. At Stephen M. White Drive, turn left down to the beach. In good weather, there may be a $3 parking fee.

San Diego. On Mission Bay, the San Diego--Mission Bay Boat and Ski Club will host its Penguin Day Ski, a 30-year tradition. From sunrise until noon, water-skiers who pay $4 (for equipment and tow) can take a run on a 1-mile course. Anyone who makes a "wet start" and stays up for a reasonable time will earn a patch. Free coffee and doughnuts will be provided. Call (619) 565-6783. From I-5 exit west onto I-8; exit on Ingraham Street, then turn left on Dana Landing Road and follow it to Dana Landing boat-launch area.

In San Diego Bay by Embarcadero Marina Park just south of Seaport Village, the San Diego Rowing Club will hold its 96th annual New Year's Day Plunge. About 10:30, swimmers will line up on the dock of the historic old boathouse (recently renovated as a Chart House restaurant), dive in, swim around the building, then haul themselves out for chili and hot buttered rum (donations requested). Call (619) 488-1893 from 7 to noon and 4 to 7. From Harbor Drive, turn right on Fifth Avenue to the boathouse at the south end of the marina.
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Date:Jan 1, 1984
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