The saying goes, that which doesn’t destroy us only makes us stronger. Well, what better way to toughen yourself up and start the new year strong than by running headlong into the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean?

Tybee Island is continuing this wild tradition with its annual Tybee Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day.

Thousands of adventurous souls will amass at the Tybee Island Pier & Pavilion with their brave friends and family to not only start the year on a fun note, but also potentially take part in history. Back in 2012, the Tybee Polar Plunge was inducted in the Guinness Book of World Records for “the largest gathering of people wearing swim caps” with a whopping 2,400 participants, and this could be the year they top that number.

All registration proceeds go to preserving the historic Tybee Post Theater. The theater, which organizes the annual plunge, was built in 1930 as a movie house for soldiers in the Army, but shut its doors in the 1960s. The theater was resurrected in 2015 by several Tybee nonprofits and is now a popular venue for movies, concerts, and plays. The funds raised by the plunge ensure the theater can continue to provide great entertainment and cultural events.

Participants all receive a collectible long-sleeved T-shirt and kids will get a kick out of seeing the official mascot, Posty the polar bear, snorkeling in a mask and flippers.

The festivities start with the “Gang of Goofs” costume contest and parade. Each year teams of three or more dress up in their cwackiest costumes to strut their stuff in front of an esteemed panel of celebrity judges. The winning team will earn $300 and the coveted trophy with the right to display it in any public location they want for a full year. Last year’s parade was the biggest yet, with two dozen teams competing for the title of goofiest gang.

Polar Bear Plunges are popular all over the world, with major events in Canada, Scotland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand, and it's no wonder. The immortal Prince once suggested that one had to purify oneself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. Who can argue with the Purple One about the benefits of a cold dip?



What: Tybee Polar Plunge

When: Jan. 1; “Gang of Goofs” Parade at 11 a.m., Polar Plunge at noon

Where: Tybee Island Pier & Pavilion

Cost: Adults $25; kids under 12 $15; long-sleeved T-shirt included