Dozens of local residents flocked to Sunset Beach on New Year's Day to start the new year off with a cold bang.

The annual Polar Bear Plunge at Sunset Beach drew large crowds with more than 50 people running into the water at 9 a.m. and just as any cheering them on. With the air temperature below 40 degrees that morning, the water temperature that hovered around 55 degrees was actually warmer, but that didn't stop many from gasping and shrieking as they plunged into the ocean.

Sam Baugh came to participate with his son, Seth. It was a first-time experience for both of them, but as the clock ticked toward 9, they were ready.

"We're just having some fun," Sam Baugh said when asked why he wanted to try it. "Why not?"

Seth's reason was bluntly honest.

"I didn't want my dad to feel like the crazy one in my family," he said.

Sam Baugh said he had never done the polar bear plunge, but he thought it would be an exciting way to start the year.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "When I was in Utah, we would sit in the hot tub and get out and roll in the snow. It's an adrenaline rush."

Robert Jackson came down wearing only his swimsuit and said he was ready to get in the water.

"It's just life affirming," he said. "It's impossible to be anywhere but in your own skin. This is the stupidest and most uncomfortable thing I'm going to do all year. So from here on out, I won't do anything as stupid or more uncomfortable."

Kristen Keeley and her daughter, Emma, came to the beach to continue what has become a family tradition. Kristen was attending for the 12th time and Emma for the sixth.

"When she was 11 she said 'it's freezing and I'm not doing it again,'" Kristen said.

"Yet here I am," Emma responded.

When the clock struck 9, the horde of polar plungers ran into the ocean. Most came out within 30 seconds, but a few hearty souls lingered longer.

When Jace Sperling came out, he quickly wrapped himself in a towel.

"It was cold, it was fun," he said. "It was really fun. I'd do it again. It wasn't as bad as I was expecting. I'm glad I did it. A great way to start the year."

One of the last people to come out of the water was Chuck Tetreault, who lingered for close to 10 minutes before slowly walking out. So how was it?

"Enjoyable," he said. "I grew up on the Canadian border. The trick is deep breathing."


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