Polar plunge 2017
Brave souls dash into the ocean on Ocracoke for a New Year’s Day plunge.


For Ocracoke news, click here

Text and photos by Connie Leinbach

About 35 islanders braved an overcast day yesterday (Jan. 1) for a quick plunge in the ocean at the Airport ramp beach to wash away 2016.

About a dozen youngsters ran around the beach in their bathing suits before the 2 p.m. countdown.

Both the air and water temperatures were about the same—in the mid-50s.

“It’s about the same as last year,” said John Crowe, perhaps the oldest one who does the plunge and one of the veterans.

polar plunge
Plungers get ready for the 2 p.m. swim.

For ninth-grader Mila Ortiz’s, it was her first plunge.“I want to see how cold it is and other peoples’ reactions,” she said while awaiting the start. “Plus, there are dolphins out there.”

In the calm water beyond the breakers, occasional dolphins could be seen along with pelicans diving into or floating on the water.

Others pointed out that there also was a whale breaching farther out.

“I saw it twice before the plunge began,” said Jim Ogden.

Along with Ortiz, there were several newcomers.

Lulu Perez looked apprehensive for her first plunge while her brother, Junior, who’s plunged before, jogged around the beach and did a few headstands before the dash into the sea.

Manda Holden, an islander originally from Cornwall, England, observed the preparations and noted that people in Cornwall do a plunge on Christmas day in much colder waters, although she never participated.

“The water temperature (here in the island) is like a Cornish summer,” she said. “We’d be blue summer swimming.”

Jason Wells, co-owner of Jason’s Restaurant, watched his son, Griffin, and the other youngsters dashing about on the beach.

Polar plunge 2017
Eduardo Chavez, left, still with his apron on after having been drafted to plunge by Mickey Baker to his left, preps for the swim. Joan and John Crowe look on.

Then Wells called all of the swimmers together for a group photo.

At 2 p.m., he called out a countdown, and the group dashed into the water.

Most dashed out within a few seconds.

First-timer Eduardo Chavez, owner of Eduardo’s Taco Stand, was spirited away from lunchtime cooking by Mickey Baker to do the plunge. He admitted to going under twice.

“The water is perfect,” he said afterwards while warming up under a towel. “Like summer.”

Ortiz also went under the waves twice.

“It was cold at first, but then I got numb and it was OK,” she said, wrapping her towel around her.

About 10 youngsters didn’t mind the temperature as they continued to swim while all of the adults had long gotten out minutes before.

When it began raining at about 2:10, Wells called the kids to come out of the water.

By 2:20, the plunge was over for another year.

To read about last year’s plunge, click here.

New Years revelers take a quick dip.
Brave island youth continue to swim after all the others have gotten out.
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