Locals do the 'Destin Dunk' on New Year's Day

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

With temps in the high 70s on New Year's Day it wasn’t much of a "polar plunge"  for the nearly 100 people that showed up to dip their feet in the water for the 17th annual Destin Dunk behind The Back Porch Seafood and Oyster House. 

"Why not do it?” said first- time dunker Susie Rodriguez of Destin.

 “It’s a great start to the New Year at the Back Porch,” added her friend Kim Tuthill.  

Because of rough water, those that participated in the Destin Dunk on New Year's Day only went in about knee deep.

Folks started to gather on the beach 30 to 40 minutes before they took off running into the Gulf of Mexico. People were socializing and catching up, picking up a T-shirt to commemorate the event as well as making donations to a couple of local nonprofits in the area: The Destin History and Fishing Museum and Destin Harvest House. 

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Muri Kersanac, organizer of the dunk, said they raised about $800 for the museum and collected a wagon-full of canned goods for Harvest House. 

“And everybody had fun,” Kersanac said. 

About 100 people showed up Saturday for the 17th annual Destin Dunk.

“Some of these people I’ve known for 25 years, but may not see them but once or twice a year. But they are faithful to come to this,” she said. 

For John Lavin, it was his first time to do the Destin Dunk. 

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“We used to do one on Okaloosa Island,” he said, making mention of some of his buddies, Bob Grant, Kevin Craig and Rick Hord. 

But this was his first in Destin. 

Mac Cook and Kendra Buehner were the first juniors out of the water in the Destin Dunk on New Year's Day.

“It’s for a good cause and a good way to start the New Year off right … not to mention it's almost 80 degrees,” Lavin said. “If you are going to do it, this is the year to do it.”

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The Destin Dunk started 17 years ago with Tim Kersanac and about four of his buddies. 

Boogie Audie of Fort Walton Beach was one of those buddies, and still shows up every year. 

People got in the spirit for the 17th annual Destin Dunk on Saturday behind The Back Porch.

Audie said the weather was great Saturday. He said back in 2018 there was a wind chill of 19 degrees, but he still got in. 

Tom Fears of Destin has done the dunk about 12 times. 

“We’re all nuts,” Fears said. 

Destin's Susan Rodriguez comes out of the water after her first-ever Destin Dunk on New Year's Day.

“It’s been so cold sometimes; you wonder why you do it. But we do it out of tradition,” he added. 

To add a little fun to the dunk, the people are challenged to run in the water with an unopened drink, chug it and then run out of the water. First place wins a prize. 

On Saturday due to the rough water, those participating only went in about knee-deep and drank their drinks. 

Boogie Audie of Fort Walton Beach and Cheri Kracht have been doing the Destin Dunk for 17 years.

Mac Cook and Kendra Buehner were the first junior participants out of the water, while Chan Wandrick and Brent Bartruff were the first adults outr. 

They also had a costume contest, won by Eric Paiser in his sporty police officer attire.