Polar Bear Dippers Wade Into 2024

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

January 19, 2024

Photos by Neil Farrell

Thousands of revelers packed Cayucos Beach on New Year’s Day to celebrate the 44th Annual Carlin B. Soulé Memorial Polar Bear Dip, though not as many folks braved the turbulent, chilly waters and made the actual plunge as years past.

As always the action on the beach before the noon dip began was wildly fun, with groups of dippers coming in costumes that included a bunch of little pigs, cowgirls, bees, Star Wars characters, pirates, Umpa-Lumpas and Willy Wonka, butterflies, a family celebrating their daughters successful kidney transplant after seven years, and Show White and her Seven (not so small) Dwarfs. 

Emcee, Phil Howard, now in his 26th year with the microphone, asked for the dipper who’d come the farthest and two (well three) made the initial cut — one was from Costa Rica, another from Prague, Czech Republic, and in the case of the Stars Wars characters, from a galaxy far, far away… The young woman from Prague took the prize certificate, suitable for framing.

The oldest person was 78 and the youngest, dressed as a pirate, was 10 months (Howard quipped that the child’s fake beard threw him off). The wackiest costume was an elderly gentleman in top hat, blue bath robe and smoking a fat cigar, who upon being pointed out stepped up and dropped his robe revealing just a white sash across his beer belly, an adult diaper and a sly smile, to peels of laughter from the boisterous crowd.

Officially, high tide was at 1:29 p.m. at 3.67 feet but as high noon approached, the waves crept further and further onto shore, squeezing the available beach down and concentrating the crowd. Some pretty large waves were crashing a bit too close to the crowd for comfort.

When noon came, the normal mad dash into the waves — this year reduced to about 10 yards — didn’t happen. Folks started venturing tentatively into the water, as the recent spat of huge monster waves in the area was apparently making everyone a bit more sober to what was ahead (waves the week before Christmas had crashed completely over the beach and onto Front Street). 

A beach strewn with driftwood, including numerous tree trunks, made for some tricky footing on the sand, as well.

The Carlin B. Soulé Memorial Polar Bear Dip is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and is put on with the assistance of Cal Fire, Morro Bay Fire and Harbor Patrol, lifeguards, Coast Guard and Sheriff’s Department, who watched over the proceedings from land and sea, and made sure everyone that went into the water came out safely.

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