What better way to ring in the New Year than a swim in the Gulf of Mexico? That’s just what thousands did Monday, January 01, 2018 at the Florabama. It was the 33rd Annual Polar Bear dip on a frigid New Year’s Day.
On a freezing, cold Monday, gulf coast beaches were virtually bare of people. That wasn’t the case at the Alabama-Florida line though. Revelers began flooding into the Florabama early to get primed for a tradition like no other on the coast. So, why do they do it?
“Why? I don’t know,” said Frank Henderson. “My crazy wife talked me into coming down here and doing this. She works here so she’s like, okay, you’re off the boat. Come down here and get in the water with me.”
“Cause we’re stupid,” said a visitor dressed like a cavewoman.
“Why not? It’s a new year. It’s a new adventure,” said Rick Judy as he made his way to the beach.
For this group of New Year’s revelers it’s not good enough to just show up for the dip in the Gulf. A lot of thought and effort goes into the costumes that are worn and if you’re without, you almost feel out of place. So how do folks prepare themselves to jump in on such a cold day?
“Lots of shots. That’s where we’re headed now. Tequila. Tequila. Yeah,” echoed two friends as they made their way to the bar.
With all of the preparations made, it was finally time. At high noon, the New Year officially began at the state line. As fast as they went in, most came out…wet, cold, but exhilarated by the first dip of the New Year.
“It was good. It was fun. Oh yeah. Nice and warm. It’s warmer in there. The worst part was not the water,” said one of the few dippers wearing nothing but a bathing suit.
The Polar Bear Dip began with a bet by Florabama co-owner, Pat McClellan on Pensacola Beach in 1985. Twelve people showed up the following year and it’s been growing ever since. Now, thousands come to the Florabama each year from around the country and around the world for the tradition.
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