image source: Tybee Vacation Rentals
Year after year, locals and visitors descend on the South end of Tybee's beach on New Year's Day to jump into the Atlantic or to cheer others on as they do. It's a wacky, offbeat, cool - now and again, frigid-tradition with lots of laughter, and it is quintessential Tybee. But did you know ...
• This annual ritual routinely draws thousands. Total turnout including spectators is normally 3,000 plus. Somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 folks are usually there to take the plunge. Many are regulars who kick off the year by sprinting across the sand to dive into the sea.
Image source: tybeejoyvacations
• Participants come from near and far. Locals, of course, are among the brave and hearty souls who take the plunge, but people come from all over the country for this Tybee tradition. In
2016 for instance, participants reportedly hailed from at least 36 different states.
Image source: savannahvillas
• The event is in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2012, the event earned International acclaim! It broke the world record for the largest gathering of people wearing swim caps. That New Year's Day a throng of 2,049 donned swim caps and took to Tybee beach.
Image source: tybeeisland
• The tradition includes a Gang of Goofs costume contest and parade. Every year, dozens of participants dress up in quirky costumes that run the gamut from gorillas to penguins. Before the plunge, they parade down the pier in front of a panel of judges to compete for prizes.
Image source: wsav
• An official conch blower signals the event's start. The story goes that in 2004 a man named Bill "Goose" Cannon showed up with a conch shell and sounded it to start the event. From then on, the Plunge has officially started off with the ceremonial conch-shell blast.
image source: Tybee Post Theater
• The Plunge actually serves as a fundraiser. Early on its life, Tybee Polar Plunge supported scholarships for local nursing candidates. Starting in 2012, the event became a vehicle to raise money for the restoration and operation of Tybee Post Theater, originally built in 1930 as a movie house for Fort Screven and reborn in 2015 as a performing arts and movie venue.
Image source: riversendcampground
• The whole thing began as a dare between friends. The year was 2000 when the event itself was born as a tradition. Tybee Polar Plunge founder, Don Ernest, says that he and a few guys threw down a gauntlet while at a New Year's Eve party and dared one another to jump in the ocean the next day at noon. The five of them did, and the rest - as they say - is history.
What a way to start the New Year - getting up the gung-ho to run into the crisp waves of the Atlantic, whether you are wearing traditional swimwear or the craziest costume you can concoct. It's all part of Tybee's charm and the mellow way we live life in Savannah. And, to paraphrase what we say at Live Love Savannah, it gives us another fun reason to Love Where We Live!