The event began earlier in the day with a gathering at The Block House before participants piled into Shriners' cars for the trip to the Court Street Landing for the plunge.
"In 2000 a couple of friends of mine came up with the idea that they would just jump in the river on New Year's Day," Sam Simon, owner of The Block House, said.
Simon said the first year only three participated, but in 2008 a record number of 88 took the plunge.
Smiling bravely, but shivering in the 25-degree temperature, about 90 members -- setting another record -- say the thrill of the event brings them back year after year.
Angie Toops said the water was colder this year than last, so participants didn't stay in the water too long. She said after the plunge, she and many others were heading to the Portsmouth Motorcycle Club to change clothes and then ride in the club's annual New Year's Day Run. After completing the run, they plan to eat ice cream. This was Toops' second year.
Nancy Russell said the water was very cold, but it was a lot of fun.
P.D. Williams and his wife, Carrie, have the Polar Bear Plunge to thank for their March 2008 wedding. Carrie, who was making her fourth plunge, met her husband four years ago at The Block House.
"After we did the plunge four years ago, then the next year, he proposed to me here, then the next year we took the plunge again, and married last March," Carrie said. "It's tradition -- we jump in every year."
P.D., however, thinks this may have been his last year to jump.
"We're married, we've done it, we've jumped enough," he said, saying this was his eighth year.
"But, I owe it to Sammy (Simon) for meeting my wife," he said.
The couple lives in Portsmouth. P.D. works at Morton Pharmacy and Carrie works for S.V. Cardiologist and is working on her master's degree in occupational therapy.
Watching on the sidelines was Missy Sparks of West Portsmouth, whose children, Haley and R.J. Sparks, were taking the plunge with their father, Rod Sparks.
She wasn't worried, though. "They have a good time," she said.
Drying off after the festivities was an exuberant Jonathan Page who said, "It was great."
Rob Moore, who took the plunge on a dare, said in a somewhat shaky voice, "It was very cold."
Each year the Polar Bear Plunge raises money to benefit a local charity. This year the money raised will benefit the Boy Scouts.