Cold weather doesn't stop participants in annual Penguin Plunge


ATLANTIC BEACH, Carteret County - It's Jan. 1 but winter didn't keep crowds away from Atlantic Beach for the annual Penguin Plunge.

Hundreds took part in the event ... even Santa Claus.

"Had a little bit of snow (Sunday) night, I blew in with my sleigh on the snow (Sunday) night and it was just enough to get us here so the penguin and I are gonna go jump in," said "Santa" before the run.

The Penguin Plunge started 15 years ago with a group of 24 but grew quickly.

"All of the sudden 48 people showed up and the year after that 96 people showed up, it just kept doubling on us an that's when we decided to do it for a cause, get some charities involved that sort of thing and its gone crazy since then," said Mariam Sutton, one of the event's co-founders.

The swimmers were dressed in costumes and were ready for the plunge. Or so they thought.

"That I'm crazy," said Cheryl Balthrop, one of the participants, when asked what she was thinking before the run. "But hey, it's the beginning of a new year so why not, when are you going to have a chance to do this again?"

These swimmers certainly were brave because it was 29 degrees here in Atlantic Beach with wind speed of around 11 mph, meaning for the first time since they started this, the water is actually warmer than the air.

"Well the water temperature is 48, that's the coldest water temp we've had and right now the air temperature seems to be about half that maybe even less than half that with the wind chill," Sutton said. "So it's definitely going to be record breaking temps for air and water this year."

The participants paid no mind to the thermometer when it was time to hit the water.

"It was great, cold, we had fun, cold," one participant said.

"It's always a good start because it kind of washes away everything and lets you start over," another participant said.

The charity for this year's event was the Austin Vet Outreach and Rescue. The event has raised more than $68,000 in charities in Carteret County since it first started.

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