Tribune reporter takes the plunge at the Cayucos polar bear dip

The annual Cayucos Polar Bear Dip is an event I’d often kept an eye on from afar — never thinking I’d take the ridiculous plunge into the chilly winter ocean.

But this year, I decided to try joining the herd of adventure-seekers or masochists, whichever is more accurate, as part of a New Year’s awakening.

What better way to start the year fresh, literally, by shocking the system. By dousing yourself in an ice bath, you feel more alive. At least that’s the idea.

I could, of course, have been at home on the couch, sipping coffee and recuperating from last night’s New Year’s Eve party. But ah, boring.

So, out I went, accompanied by my videographer, fellow Tribune reporter Pat Pemberton, to capture the moment.

The Polar Bear Dip is great for its festive atmosphere.

An estimated 3,000 to 3,500 people attended Friday to either jump in the ocean for the momentous noon plunge or watch.

Hundreds got there hours early to listen to the loudspeaker music of Michael Jackson and merengue star Elvis Crespo, chatting with friends and getting their costumes properly arranged.

I saw senior citizens in Speedos, a team of elves, Atascadero High’s swim team, Lebowski-esque men in bathrobes, and a Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.

All of these folks become part of your team by the end of the day. They all share in the ritual, and somehow you feel a little bonded to them.

I dressed in relatively boring attire: swim trunks, a pajama top and ski gloves to battle the cold conditions. I had my “killer whale” noodle flotation device to ward off the great whites lurking out there.

The best part is the anticipation.

With our videographer in place, I waited for the countdown, doing some running in place to get the blood flowing.

I could feel the excitement growing of people all around me, who began to creep up toward the tideline. Then it was on.

Screaming, running, that first blast of cold. Among the wave of people that met the waves of the sea, it was exhilarating to get that first splash of cold.

Apparently, you’re not a true Polar Bear dipper unless you dunk your head. I submerged three times. It felt great. I’m now awake to start 2016.

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