Hundreds ‘bear’ the cold at this year’s Polar Bear Plunge


On New Year’s Day, Charleston’s beaches were filled with flashy costumes, good vibes, and hundreds of brave people ready to ‘bear’ the cold at the annual Polar Bear Plunge. This New Year’s tradition consists of running, splashing, and diving into the ocean’s 70 degree water and happily shivering in the frigid January air. The festivities continue all day as the beach goers come together in celebration and enjoy food and fun.

One beach that hosted a Polar Bear Plunge this year was Sullivan’s Island. The event is sponsored by Dunleavy’s Pub and they welcome tons of plungers into their restaurant for some warmth and comfort food. They also encourage participants to buy t-shirts, food, drinks, or donate money with all proceeds going to Special Olympics South Carolina. Amazingly, for more than a decade the Polar Plunge has raised about $40,000 a year for their organization. This money is used to help more than 24,000 Special Olympic athletes who compete in over 26 different sports. Johnny Gush, a Wando student who was interviewed for the Post and Courier, participated in the event and said, “it was awesome…cold and freezing, but it was good. It’s still a shock when the water first hits you, but it’s always a fun experience.”

Another local beach that hosted a Plunge was Folly Beach. This year was the 4th annual Bill Murray Look-a-Like Polar Bear Plunge, where the participants pay homage to one of Charleston’s favorite residents, Bill Murray. People are encouraged to come dressed as their favorite Murray movie character and “freeze their bills off.” Prizes are awarded to the Best Guy, Best Girl, Best Team, and Best Overall for creative and festive attire. Attendees can recover from their New Year’s Eve celebrations at beach businesses: Blu, Tides, Sand Dollar, Loggerheads, Snapper Jacks, Bert’s, Taco Boy, Surf Bar, Crab Shack, Woody’s, The Drop In, The Washout and the Lost Dog. A portion of the proceeds from the event benefit Folly Beach local charities and beach cleanups.

The event is a great fresh start to the Year; joining in celebration with hundreds of your closest friends. The annual Polar Bear Plunge is symbolic of  “diving” into the New Year and preparing for the journey ahead. We “wave” goodbye to 2016 and happily welcome 2017 as we all prepare to “bear” the approaching year together.