Polar Bear Plunge in frigid temps

Tina Harbuck

Cold weather, cold water … no problem.

With the temperature at 32 degrees and the Gulf of Mexico at 62 degrees, more than 75 young and old took the plunge in the Destin Fire Rescue Foundation 2018 Polar Bear Plunge behind Crab Trap Restaurant at James Lee Park on New Year’s Day.

For some it was about tradition, others it was time with family and some just for fun.

At 10 a.m. Monday about 50 or more had already gathered at the beach getting ready to take the plunge at 10:30 a.m.

“This is the coldest ever,” said Beach Safety Chief Joe D’Agostino.

Last year on New Year’s Day the temperatures were in the 70s for the plunge.

However, the chilling weather didn’t slow down the folks as they came down bundled up, but soon they dropped the blankets and got ready to hit the water.

“It may be idiotic, but I never pass up a chance to do something fun,” said 79-year-old Pat Bradley of Illinois.

She and her friend, 72-year-old Carol Finnegan, were all about giving it a try.

For Roxie Orr and her young daughter Sela of Niceville it was about sharing time with family.

“It’s all about making a memory with my daughter,” Roxie said.

Elizabeth Bergmann and her daughter Sophia, who is now in college at the University of Florida, have been doing the plunge for the past nine years.

When Sophia was asked why she continues to come home and do the event her reply was “why not?”

Sophia was part of the Junior Lifeguard Program and her mother says they continue to do the plunge to support the program.

For Jimmy Leszczynski of Bloomington, Illinois, it was all about tradition.

“I do it because it’s tradition,” said the 62-year-old who has been doing the plunge since 2008. “Once I start something I usually don’t quit.”

After a group photo along the beach, D’Agostino did a countdown and everybody took off running and yelling into the water to kick off year.

Although the dip in the water was quick for most, the proceeds from the event will be long lasting for the Destin Fire Rescue Foundation.