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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Brrrravado highlights Carolina Beach Polar Plunge

The first time Rudy Branson attempted a Polar Plunge he stripped to his bathing suit, ran full speed to the water … and … stopped dead in his tracks. Goosebumps appearing like kudzu on his body, he shivered in the cold air and walked back to the beach to dress.

That was four years ago during the first annual Special Olympics Polar Plunge in Carolina Beach, and Rudy laughs at the memory. On Saturday, Feb. 16, he plunged into the chilly Atlantic for the third year in a row. The water temperature was 56 degrees and the air was not much better.

“I love this event,” said Rudy, a 74-year-old former electrician who has lived in Carolina Beach for 30 years. “It’s fun, raises money for a good cause, and fosters a sense of community.”

Rudy was the oldest of 54 brave souls to plunge into the ocean at the Carolina Beach boardwalk. Caitlin Roth, age 8, was the youngest. “It was really cold at first,” said Caitlin, sipping from a steaming Styrofoam cup of hot chocolate. “But then I kinda got used to it.”

In order to participate in the Polar Plunge, participants must raise a minimum of $50 and can enter as an individual or as a team (teams must have at least 5 plungers, and each plunger must raise a minimum of $50).

One team – amusingly called Fargo -- was the first to plunge and eagerly splashed in the three- to four-foot waves. Each was dressed in red Speedos and made an absurd contrast to the surfers nearby, who were decked out head to toe in black wetsuits and mostly bobbed in the surf, sitting on their boards and shaking their heads at the brave plungers.

This year’s Polar Plunge was dedicated to Karl Davis, WECT-TV general manager, who died in a motorcycle accident on Jan. 12.

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