Story and photos by JEFFREY POWELL
A stiff southeast wind, high surf conditions and cool temperatures did little to detour the spirits of approximately 200 area visitors and locals alike that started off 2011 by taking a plunge in the Gulf of Mexico on Saturday morning, Jan. 1. The fourth annual Polar Bear Plunge was sponsored by Watercolor Inn and Resort and was held just behind the facility. As the 9 a.m. start time approached swimmers shed their sweat shirts and prepared to take the plunge in the 55-degree water. Most of the participants did not dally long in the gulf and returned to their towels and warm clothing with great haste. There were as many reasons for participating in the day’s event as there were people involved but Oxford, Miss., Dr. William Henderson explained it this way.
“Why do men climb mountains, because they are there. That is the reason I took this swim, because it is here,” he said. “It did take your breath away but it was not as bad as I thought it would be. It is also a bit of friendly competition with my friend. Mostly though it is just fun.”
After the swim, most of the participants flocked around containers filled with hot chocolate provided by Watercolor. Many of the swimmers also purchased a T-shirt proving they had taken the plunge.
“We are very excited with today’s turnout,” said Watercolor Director of Sales and Marketing Jennifer Haynes Williams. “This is a unique way for people to start out the new year together. It brings people together on the beach.”