It takes a certain amount of gung–ho to dash into the chilly waters of the Atlantic on New Year’s Day, especially if you’re wearing a silly costume with glitter, feathers and dangly things, or a bathrobe, or a pair of Speedos and a skintight skullcap.
Every year, however, with their courage bolstered by the previous night’s revelries, copious amounts of coffee, adrenaline or just plain chutzpah, thousands of people do exactly this on Tybee Island’s South Beach.
Welcome to the Polar Plunge, now a 13–year tradition.
This time around, for the second year in a row, the Plunge is a benefit for the Tybee Post Theater, the former Fort Screven movie house that’s being renovated and brought to state–of–the–art conditions to provide Tybee with its first–ever first–class performing arts venue.
The 2012 Plunge (this one, remember, will be in 2013) was a massive undertaking. A total of 2,049 people assembled on the beach wearing custom–made bathing caps — it looked like a bizarre gathering of Coneheads — to get into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Which they did. Record broken. Tybee is in the book.
Then, with the traditional conch–shell blast, they all ran into the surf.
You could hear the laughter a mile away.
The theater had considered attempting another Guinness feat this year, according to Director of Operations Amy Kagan.
But how do you top something like that?
So for 2013, it’s Polar Plunge Classic.
“People on Tybee Island like to have fun,” Kagan says, “and we do everything possible to facilitate that.”
They’ve re–introduced the “Gang of Goofs Contest,” which encourages “teams of three or more to dress up in their funniest, wackiest and craziest costumes,” Kagan explains.
“In addition to the winner receiving the coveted ‘Le Goofs’ trophy, we’re making the contest even more enticing this year by offering some fantastic prizes. The grand prize is a Tybee Wine Festival/Tybee Island getaway for four which includes accommodations for three nights, tickets for our April Wine Festival and more.”
Second and third places prizes will be awarded as well. And everyone who registers receives a limited edition, long–sleeved Tybee Polar Plunge T–shirt.
“So far this year, most of the advance registrations have been from outside of the area,” Kagan says, “which shows that people are aware of this event and are excited about spending New Year’s Day at the beach, and taking the plunge at noon with hundreds of other brave souls.”
Still, one of the best parts of Polar Plunging on Tybee is the infectious community spirit — in 2012, it seemed that everybody on the beach knew everybody else. It was a hell of a party.
And that, of course, is part of Tybee’s perpetual charm.
“It’s a great way for us to promote the theater and what we’re trying to do,” says Kagan, “and a great way to bring people together – not only to celebrate the New Year, but to celebrate Tybee Island — and support a great cause.”
The theater, she adds, “is going to be a venue to be shared with the community, and we want the entire community to be a part of it at every stage.”
Tybee Polar Plunge 2013
When: At noon Tuesday, Jan. 1
Where: Tybee Island South Beach (by the pier)
Gang of Goofs Parade at 11 a.m.
Info & Registration: Online at TybeePolarPlunge.com
You can register for the Polar Plunge and the Gang of Goofs contest in person at the Tybrisa Roundabout on Saturday, Dec. 29, Sunday, Dec. 30 and Monday, Dec. 31st from noon to 3 p.m., or on Tuesday, Jan. 1 starting at 9 a.m. at the Tybee Island Pier and Pavilion.