Start off the New Year in a Cool Way

People across the world have a bevy of traditions to welcome the start of each new year. One tradition – participating in a “Polar Bear” dip or plunge – has been keeping merrymakers in the swim, despite icy waters, for more than a century. Two local beach communities will once again be hosting events in 2018. 

Polar Bear Dip, Polar Bear Plunge, Paso Robles, PASO Magazine, Cayucos

Photo by John Hagy
Hannah and Anne Hagy dress up and take the plunge in the icy water of Cayucos on New Year’s Day.

Cayucos Beach – Carlin Soulé Polar Bear Dip at Cayucos Pier 

  • 9:30 – festivities start 
  • Noon – the dip officially takes place 
  • See visitcayucosca.com for more info 

Avila Beach – Polar Bear Plunge at Pier 

  • 11:45 a.m. – meet on the south side of the pier 
  • Photos and costumes are encouraged 
  • See visitavilabeach.com for more info 

Make it official 

So, what constitutes a successful Polar Bear dip or plunge? The rules state one must strip down to a bathing suit and plunge into  the water – all the way in – and emerge with wet hair/scalp. Costumes are encouraged; wetsuits disqualify an official plunge. 

Not interested in taking the plunge?  It’s still fun to tag along – walk on the beach, take photos of friends and family, lend encouragement, and join in on the laughs! 

Locals dare to dip

“Last year, it was my daughter Hannah’s first time. She was determined to stay out in the surf for five minutes or longer…no rushing out after a couple of seconds,” said Anne Hagy, Paso Robles resident and Atascadero teacher. “Hannah wore a squid head she had from Halloween and my green wig was from an old costume; I wanted to blend in like seaweed. The last time I dipped, in 1998, was with my mom and brother and there were very few costumes. Now it is almost required to wear something fun.” 

EarthTones Owner Mary Uebersax says it allows one to start the new year, “fresh, excellent, exuberant, and cleansed. There’s this collective consciousness – you feel encouraged by the other people there. You have to go all-in; it’s like a metaphor for life – there’s no cheating when it comes to making positive changes in your life.” 

Los Osos resident Patricia Gimer, LMFT, was a polar bear novice when she took the plunge last year – at the age of 66! “As I hit the water, the shock of it made me slow my pace as well as question my sanity! The rules say you need to put your head under water, but I was having second thoughts.” A breaking wave made the decision for her. “I lost all control but, when I sprung back up, I felt victorious! I had done it and I had the wet hair to prove it!”  Will she do it again? “Absolutely,” she said, “maybe until I’m ninety!”