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18th annual Tybee Polar Plunge promises a refreshing start to 2017

  • 2015 Tybee Polar Plunge (Spotted file photo by Corey Brooks)
  • 2015 Tybee Polar Plunge (Spotted file photo by Corey Brooks)
  • 2015 Tybee Polar Plunge (Spotted file photo by Corey Brooks)
 

18th annual Tybee Polar Plunge promises a refreshing start to 2017

26 Dec 2016

Now really, how cold can it be?

You step into the Atlantic Ocean, get your head under water before you realize what you’re doing and then it’s all over for a whole year. Go on, give the Tybee Polar Plunge a try — if nothing else, it’s a good cure for a New Year’s Eve hangover.

“I did it twice,” says Melissa Turner, executive director of the Tybee Post Theater, which sponsors the event. “It was before we took over organizing the plunge.”

In fact, Turner participated in the 2012 plunge, which made the Tybee plunge the only one in the country to occupy a place of honor in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“It was the largest gathering of people wearing swim caps,” Turner says. “We had 2,049 that year.

“The Guinness folks sent out officials to count,” she says. “It was fantastic. That was the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for a polar plunge.”

But that record could be broken this year.

“We expect a bigger year than ever before because of the holiday falling on Sunday,” Turner says. “All the tourists will want to plunge before they go back home.”

The Gang of Goofs competition starts at 11 a.m., followed by the Polar Plunge at noon. The biggest attractions for participants and spectators alike are the Gangs of Goofs, who compete for prizes for best costumes.

See Spotted photos from the 2015 costume competition and plunge here.

“Last year’s winners were the Zany Zodiac, 12 women from Tybee,” Turner says. “Each one was dressed up like a sign of the Zodiac — we had the Gemini twins, Scorpio was a scorpion. All had dressed up in zodiac signs.

“There were a couple dozen groups last year,” Turner says. “One of the most popular was the Tybee Plungers, who wore toilet seats and carried great big plungers.”

And it’s all for a good cause, to benefit the Tybee Post Theater.

“We get volunteers to participate so all proceeds can go to the continuing restoration and programming of the theater,” Turner says. “This year also helps us pay off our brand-new roof.

“The old roof was taken off by Hurricane Matthew. The roof was only 10 years old, so it was quite a shame.

“We’re halfway toward our goal,” she says. “People had roofing problems all over on Tybee.”

The Tybee Polar Plunge has nature on its side.

“Let’s face it, the water isn‘t going to be lower than 50 degrees,” Turner says. “Some years, it’s in the 70s.

“Sure, it’s chilly. The temperature last year was in the 60s and it was also a little drizzly, but still quite comfortable.

“It wouldn’t compare to New England or Michigan,” she says. “You don’t suffer quite as much when you plunge. And you get a long-sleeved T-shirt to take with you to get you all warm.”

The plunge is suitable for all ages.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Turner says. “It’s a great way for families to celebrate the New Year.

“Lots of families do this together,” she says. “Families dress as Gangs of Goofs.”

The Gang of Goofs costume contest is also a parade.

“They get together and parade up the pier and in front of the celebrity judges,” Turner says. “They get great cash prizes.”

The cost to participate is $25 for adults and $15 for children 12 and younger. To avoid crowds, participants can register early, from noon-4 p.m. through Dec. 31 in the tent by the Strand Roundabout or online.

People from all over the country participate.

“We had 36 states last year,” Turner says. “I can’t say they all come for the polar plunge, but over the holidays between Christmas and New Year’s, Tybee is a popular destination spot.

“Some people come back year after year. We get some of the same folks from other states and they dress up for the Gang of Goofs.”

“You get the honor of an exciting start to the new year,” she says. “There is no better way to cleanse the soul and start fresh.”

The event is still growing.

“The thing that is growing most is the Gang of Goofs costume contest and parade,” Turner says. “All it takes is three folks to constitute a gang.

“They come as penguins, ducks and one year as ‘Risky Business,’ with men in underwear and pink T-shirts. You name it, there are all kinds of themes.

“It doesn’t cost to register a gang, you just need to pay to participate in the plunge,” she says. “And you can’t win two years in a row, so the Zany Zodiac girls are working as volunteers this year.”

IF YOU GO

What: 18th annual Tybee Polar Plunge

When: Jan. 1; Gang of Goofs Costume Contest and Parade at 11 a.m., Polar Plunge at noon

Where: Tybee beach, pier and pavilion

Cost: $25 adults, $15 kids 12 and younger; includes long-sleeved T-shirt

Info: tybeeposttheater.org

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