Taking the plunge

It wasn’t quite as cold as temperature outside in the Chicago suburbs where Mike McClelland, his wife and three kids live.

And it wasn’t as cold as the water in an autumn mountain lake at 8,500 elevation, a memory Mike recalled as he dried himself Sunday following the Cape San Blas “Polar Plunge” at Cape Palm Park beach.

But after he and the family – wife Katie, kids Ryan, Sloane and Callan –  pulled into town Saturday afternoon, and later talked during dinner with Greg Matney, the owner of Scallop Cove, and a founder of the event, he made his choice.

He was invited to the plunge, Mike thinking “Yeah, I’ll get freezing in the Gulf.”

So he donned the swim trunks he brought along to relax in the hot tub, and along with about 60-70 people, took part in the Cape’s fifth annual event.

"It was cold," he said. "It wasn't intolerable."

Had it been held on Friday, New Year’s Day, as originally scheduled, or on Saturday, as initially postponed to, all due to weather, he would have missed it. But instead, he had his chance..

Temperatures were in the 50’s Sunday, and most were wearing swimsuits. Nearly all did not linger long in the surf.

Matney, originally from the Pacific Northwest, said he has endured jokes as to how such a Sunshine State dip could ever be called a "Polar plunge.” And praise that it offers the daring to rinse off the residue of the past year and share in the embrace of chilly waves..

The plunge has been held five years straight, although there was a few months delay after Hurricane Michael.

Vince Bishop, fire chief of the South Gulf County Volunteer Fire Department, for which the plunge helps raise donations, said the water was in the high 60s, warmer than the air. “The bad part is out here when you’re all wet,” he said.

He said numbers were down from years past. “We’ve had a couple hundred before,” he said.

Matney hoped 2021 brings along health, happiness, and the safety and comfort of having group gatherings once again. 

“We are a tight-knit community out here, and we like to get together and celebrate any event,” he told WMBB. “I think it is really just a great way to wash off the old year and start out fresh with the new year. Especially last year, 2020.”

For the McClellands, it was a new dad joke for the three kids, who watched in their hoodies from the sand.

“The pandemic has completely blurred everything,” said Mike, this year the family trying a new spot, Cape San Blas, for a week-long Florida getaway.

“We’re completely blessed and it’s been great that we’ve been able to spend more time together,” he said. “We’re going to relax and check out the place.”

This article originally appeared on The Star: Taking the plunge

Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper NonDoc.com during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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