Ten Years of a Chilly Tybee Tradition

January 25, 2010 by  
Filed under Area Events / Festivals, News, Polar Bear Plunge

Ten Years of a Chilly Tybee Tradition – 2010 Polar Bear Plunge “Baptises” Followers into the New Year!

All Photos by Jim Glass

Living by the ocean tends to inspire local rituals that are wet and wild, for instance take Tybee’s “Beach Bum Parade,” an annual water bash that happens in May.

Of course, plenty of island events, especially parades end up that way due to rain so it’s always best to be prepared. But since January 1st, 1999 an increasing number of “Tybeeians” have taken up the tradition of running into the waves at high noon on New Year’s Day for a brief exercise in ritualistic cleansing, (or as some say, a group effort to defy the odds of catching pneumonia) known as the Polar Bear Plunge.

January 1st, 2010 marked the tenth anniversary of the Polar Bear Plunge, and event initiated that first winter when Don Ernst and his friends dared one another to take that invigorating “dip” into the Atlantic in the dead of winter.  The event was quickly accepted as a Tybee ‘thang,’ but due to its popularity and steady growth each season has taken on a life of it’s own. Now hundreds of plungers descend on Tybee annually to participate in the frolicking madness, much to the delight of island businesses.

This month as usual and despite the rain, crowds of onlookers lined the pier and stood on shore to watch as swimmers raced in (and out of) the water. There were contests and trophies for the best ‘Goofy’ costumes. The winning group keeps the coveted Le Goofs trophy for 1 year and will have to defend their championship status each year.

All Photos by Jim Glass

2010 was also the first year that participants were given the option to register and pay a fee to become members of the new “Polar Bear Club” initiated by the organizers to raise funds for Armstrong Nursing Programs.  Anyone could swim without paying the fee, but those who registered received an official t-shirt granting them the title of “Shrimp,” and were eligible for discounts at many local establishments after their plunge. The event was included in the “Tybee for the Holidays” Better Hometown Initiative event promotion, sponsored by Southern Eagle Distributing, Connect Savannah, WJCL-TV/Fox 28 The Coastal Source, WRHQ – FM Quality Rock, The Tybee Times, and promoted by the Tybee Tourism Council along with music on the pier by Randy “Hatman” Smith, and The Tams also compliments of the Tybee Tourism Council. For more information about this year’s event visit: http://www.tybeetyme.com/tybee_polar_bear_plunge.

Happy New Year, and all the best to those who took the plunge!

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4 Responses to “Ten Years of a Chilly Tybee Tradition”
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