Hundreds rush into ocean for Tybee Island’s Polar Plunge

800 people take the plunge
800 people take the plunge(Mariah Congedo)
Published: Jan. 1, 2023 at 6:16 PM EST
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TYBEE ISLAND, Ga. (WTOC) - While some look for warm getaways to start the New Year, hundreds on Tybee Island welcomed 2023 in a much colder way.

Hundreds rushed into the ocean braving chilly water temperatures for Tybee’s Polar Plunge.

It’s a tradition not held in full-scale since before the pandemic, but made a complete return this New Year’s.

“We stumbled on it three years ago, by accident. It’s kind of just a way of showing that you’re alive, having fun, and starting out the New Year right,” said the Tittle family, participating in their third plunge.

But before the crowd of 800 plunged into the Atlantic, the competition began on Tybee’s pier, where many vied for the first-place trophy in the costume contest.

“You don’t get to take it home. It gets placed in your favorite locale on Tybee Island,” said contest participant Laura Glenn.

And for some, the costumes represented overcoming personal challenges including for the Tittle family dressed as Superman.

“I had a rough year, almost died,” said Tittle.

“He had an open heart that didn’t go well. He ended up on life support for 10 days just in March, so we’re celebrating life.”

After the contest, crowds rushed into the waters.

And while some say they felt a chill, one duo from New England says the plunge was anything but polar.

“The ocean temperature here now is probably what June/July would be up in New Hampshire. It’s nothing, we are good,” said Jennifer Chiavacci.

The water for the plunge was at 59 degrees, a far cry from the 80-degree temperatures in the middle of summer.

Each person had a unique reason for taking the plunge.

“My son committed suicide, and I found a ‘Dear Santa’ letter that he wanted Santa to bring matching outfits. So, we decided, in his memory, we’d do this every year for him,” said Nancy Floyd.

The plunge is used to give back to Tybee, with entry fees going to help the island’s Main Street Program and Post Theater.