Now in its 37th year, this California Central Coast tradition brought people together who thought nothing of plunging into the icy winter waters of the Pacific Ocean. Some adorned themselves in spunky costumes, many wore summer bathing suits, and a few donned wet suits. No matter what their attire, they all melded harmoniously when rushing the frigid water in this long-standing tradition.
My first year to attend this quirky event, I immediately felt caught up in the fervor after arriving at Cayucos State Beach. Diverse characters wandered the sand; some costumed in bright hats and punky wigs, others showed up in their polar bear pajamas. From Santa Claus to super heroes, from a band of pirates to a family of pink pigs, from Elvis Presley to Hugh Hefner and his surly bunnies, I eagerly followed them all, snapping photos wherever I could.
When the time neared 12 o'clock, I snagged an optimal spot on the pier and waited for the announcer to give his booming go-ahead to start the polar bear dip. The gutsy participants rushed forward, making their way into the brisk waves. Amidst the joyous screeches and wails that soon exploded as the new year washed ashore, I understood the allure of this intense SLO County deluge.
This annual tradition allows some to be creative, many to be brave, others to be curious, and more than just a few experience pure elation. Not a bad way to start 2017. Happy New Year!
Click the video above to view some of the fun from this year's polar bear dip!