SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — Chilly 60-degree waters didn’t faze Hazel Gaitan.
The 3-year-old splashed around in the Gulf waves with her family while wearing her Wonder Woman outfit for about 10 minutes before getting out and telling her mom she wanted to do the Polar Bear Dip again.
More than 700 people went dashing through the sand and into the Gulf of Mexico yesterday afternoon in celebration of Clayton’s 21st Annual Polar Bear Dip and New Year’s Day Beach Party.
Yesterday’s weather made for a more bearable dip into the Gulf compared to last year’s 40-degree weather.
The idea of the Polar Bear Dip tradition is to immerse yourself completely from head-to-toe in the water to wash off the old year and come out refreshed and ready for the new year.
“It’s a fun thing for everyone to get in the ocean and welcome the new year,” said Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill owner and event host Clayton Brashear. “When you look around, you see Winter Texans, families and even dogs. So that’s cool because it’s an activity the whole family can do.”
Brashear said he always tries to include local nonprofits with his events.
The Friends of Animal Rescue shelter and the Walk for Women nonprofit organization were on-site selling Polar Bear Dip T-shirts to raise money for the Island’s animal shelter.
Friends of Animal Rescue shelter co-founder Jacky Conrad said the nonprofit began running out of T-shirts nearly 30 minutes into the event’s registration.
“I think we had a great year because of the weather,” Conrad said with a smile. “Last year, it was cold and raining, but this year was perfect.”
Illinois resident Ray Zuberbier has been participating in the Polar Bear Dip with his friends and family for the past three years.
“I really enjoy the challenge of doing it,” Zuberbier said. “It’s a lot of fun, but last year was a real challenge because it was freezing cold. So it felt much better this year.”