For those of you with the mettle to take a dip in the chilly waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter, Hunting Island State Park has just the event for you. The Pelican Plunge-the Lowcountry's version of the ever-popular Polar Bear Swim-takes place every year on New Year's Day at the island park near Beaufort.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, seawater temperatures in the Charleston area in December average 54 degrees. Brisk, to be sure, but not bad compared to the icy 32-degree temps braved by Polar Bear Club members in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan. Brrrrrr!!!
More than just a test of will, the Hunting Island plunge benefits the South Carolina State Park's "Discover Carolina" education programs, which teach third, fifth and seventh grade students about the ecology of the semitropical barrier island. Participants solicit pledges before the event. The swimmer raising the most money wins a grand prize.
Even if you're not prepared to brave the frigid surf, you can still party with the hearty. Organized by the Friends of Hunting Island State Park, the event features a variety entertainment, including a steel drum band, an outrageous costume parade, chimenea fires on the beach, s'mores and plenty of hot beverages.
Join the hundreds of bathers and their cheer sections as they gather at 1 p.m. on the north end of the beach near the Hunting Island lighthouse for the ocean dunk. All participants receive an "I Took the Plunge" sticker. Commemorative T-shirts also will be available.
For more information on the Pelican Plunge or to download a pledge form, click here.