By Lauren Delgado
NAVARRE BEACH — The screams and yells of the participants in the 4th Annual Penguin Plunge and Paddle were deafening Tuesday as they splashed their way into icy Santa Rosa Sound at Juana’s Pagodas and Sailors’ Grill.
Some made it to the penguin buoys a few feet away, but others took a step in the water and ran back to shore.
“They go in slowly but come racing out,” an announcer joked over the microphone.
More than 300 people were “Freezin’ for a Reason,” according to the event’s T-shirt, an increase from previous years, organizer Mandy Evers said. The plunge raises money for Fisher House, which provides lodging to families of hospitalized veterans and military.
Evers said the event honors a tradition while also giving back.
“It’s a tradition in this area to dive into the water,” Evers said.
Penguin Plungers could race each other on the 1-mile standup paddleboard course, swim for a few feet to the penguin buoys or register as “chickens” and not enter the cold water but still donate to the cause.
Diane Rutledge, president of Island Life Social Club, said the event is a great way for the club to uphold its motto, “Island Living, Community Giving.” About 12 members helped with the event, she said.
“We love doing things for the community,” Rutledge said.
Kim Henderson, executive director of the Fisher House of the Emerald Coast, was thrilled with this year’s turnout. The paddleboard event alone had twice as many participants as last year, she said.
“They get off their butts on New Year and give back,” Henderson said. “That’s some good karma.”
"Holidays, birthdays & anniversaries have been celebrated with tears and smiles with people who truly understand what the other person is experiencing."
- Kamryn Jaroszewski