Hundreds of people of all ages sprint to the surf line to begin the annual Pelican Plunge on Saturday at Hunting Island State Park. Missing was the typical bitter cold as a crowd of roughly 500 people, mostly clad in shorts and flip-flops, waited to charge into the surf. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

Atlantic Ocean or bust

After a year off, Pelican Plunge returns to Hunting Island

By Mike McCombs

Hunting Island State Park’s 12th annual Pelican Plunge was the biggest yet as more than 500 people rumbled down the beach and splashed into the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day, raising roughly $5,000 for the Friends of Hunting Island (FOHI).

Friends of Hunting Island Marketing Director Linda Miller confirmed there were more than the roughly 450 plungers that participated in 2020 and said the group, “doubled what we did in 2019.”

The Pelican Plunge was canceled last year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Miller said the reasons for the big crowd Saturday were simple.

“It was a beautiful day,” Miller said. “The water temperature was warm, too. It was like 62 (degrees).

But our numbers improved by twofold (over 2019) mostly because people were anxious get back to it.”

Some use the full-speed-ahead approach and jump into the water while others use the more cautious one-step-at-a-time approach during Saturday’s annual Pelican Plunge at Hunting Island State Park. Either way, the weather was picture perfect. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

The Pelican Plunge is one of the organization’s biggest annual events. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit in its work to support the park’s environmental efforts, including its sea turtle conservation project, which protects the sea turtles who nest on Hunting Island each year.

Miller said the funds raised would be put back into the community and used where they served the park the best.

The New Year’s Day event is traditionally the last day a Friends of Hunting Island membership for the previous year can get you into the park. The Plunge is the perfect time for current members to renew and new members to join.

Currently, FOHI has around 1,400 members, Miller said. She said the Plunge generally increases the membership around 10 percent, and this year the event increased traffic to the FOHI website with new visitors up by 80 percent.

FOHI membership costs $60 for a year and presents volunteer opportunities. Miller said she recently learned that the organization is opening up the sea turtle program to all active volunteers, so anybody that becomes a member can become a volunteer for the sea turtle program, counting nests and hatchlings.

For those interested in joining Friends of Hunting Island or learning about its sea turtle program, visit the website at https://www.friendsofhuntingisland.org/.

Mike McCombs is the Editor of The Island News and can be reached at TheIslandNews@gmail.com.

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