Dressed in creative costumes, participants dive into the ocean to welcome the new year in Cayucos

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — Dressed in their costumed best, thousands of people kicked off their new year with a chilly start. On Monday, Jan. 1, thousands met on the beach next to the Cayucos Pier and jumped into the ocean for the 44th annual Carlin Soulé Memorial Polar Bear Dip.

Costumes are always encouraged at the event, and many appeared in various creations, including some oompa loompas.

The dip is named after Carlin B. Soulé, a local artist, surfer, and local yokel, who, in 1979, decided to jump in the Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day. Why exactly he decided to take the dip is still up for debate today. Nonetheless, people come from all around the county to participate four decades later.


Prior to the dip, awards are issued for various costume categories. Additionally, an award is given to the oldest and youngest dippers of the day. People have come from as far away as Brazil, New Zealand, Ireland, and Spain, with the farthest traveler also getting a certificate.

At exactly noon, dippers make the dash into the water to wash off the old and welcome in the new — a tradition that has happened around the world for hundreds of years.

Fortunately, last week’s high tide and destructive waves did not interfere with Monday’s fresh start. Commemorative shirts designed by a Cayucos Elementary School student were sold to help cover the costs of the event, along with programs and services provided by the Chamber of Commerce, which partners with several county agencies to make the event happen.

Further down the coast, Avila Beach held its 12th annual Polar Bear Plunge, which also stands as a celebration of fitness, nature, a new year, and camaraderie.

Feature Image: Many of those taking part in the Carlin Soulé Memorial Polar Bear Dip on Monday, Jan. 1, did so in creative and colorful costumes, which is encouraged by event organizers. Photos by Rick Evans