Jan 03 2014

Massive Turnout for Polar Bear Plunge

The weather outside wasn’t too frightful which made for an impressive turnout for the Folly Beach Polar Bear Plunge.  At 57 degrees, the air was warmer than the water temperature which was a chilly 55 degrees.  Just before the plunge, participants began warming up with drinks at the bars along Center Street and at the Blu beach bar.  Although it began to rain, a few thousand people lined the beach outside of the Tides Folly Beach Hotel and a few minutes before 1 p.m., people dashed for the Atlantic Ocean.  Approximately half the crowd ran into the water, while the rest of the crowd watched from dry land. We decided to stay dry and watch from the beach as well.

Bill Murray look alikes could be spotted throughout the crowd.  Steve Zissou was one of the most popular Bill Murray characters along with a Raleigh St. Clair costume from the Royal Tenenbaums,  a Dr. Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters, and several homemade Bill Murray masks.  Heather O. and friends watched from the shore enjoying Bloody Marys, while fiance Marcus. G. jumped into the water with his friends.  “He got a little practice in on New Year’s Eve when he and a friend jumped into a neighborhood pond,” said Heather.

A few plungers jumped into the frigid waters with floats and their dogs.  Plungers told us that the worst part was waiting to get in the water.  While the water was cold, the air was warm so walking around Folly Beach wet wasn’t too bad.  We watched some plungers run into the water, go under water, and run out.  Other plungers walked into the water and stood around with their friends.  Even after getting out of the water, most plungers didn’t seem to be in a rush to change out of those sopping, wet clothes.

Kimberly Brown ran into the water with friends and when she got out, she searched the crowd looking for her friends holding on to her dry clothes.  Brown said, “I plunged mostly for good fun with friends and community.  This was my first plunge, but it’s something you hear about year-round and really a part of our winter beach culture.  It was a blast!  The water was chilly, but exhilarating and refreshing, too.  The costumes and events before and after made it clear that the spirit of celebration is alive and well in 2014.  I can’t think of a better way to start the year.  After the plunge, she changed into a Coca Cola polar bear costume.

The plungers and spectators continued to stroll along the beach back towards the bars and Blu’s New Year’s Day Oyster Roast.  With snow in the Northeast and frigid temperatures around the Great Lakes, Folly Beach plungers were lucky to have mild, winter weather. We were surprised to see so many plungers and spectators out on New Year’s Day.  The enormous plunge crowd spoke for itself, making it a great way for Folly Beach residents and visitors to kick off 2014.



Bob Hart Author

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