The Polar Dip participants from 2022. | Credit: Courtesy

It was almost six years ago when Julie DeAngelis and Hugh Margerum gathered some friends to head down to East Beach across from the Chromatic Gate and jump into the chilly Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day. 

Santa Barbara’s Polar Dip co-founder Hugh Margerum | Credit: Courtesy

“We decided to make it an annual tradition,” explains Margerum of that 2017 origin story. “It’s a refreshing way to start the year off and brings people from all walks of life together.” 

With the 2023 dip on the horizon, Margerum answered a few of our questions about “Polar Dip Santa Barbara,” to which all are invited.

How’s it work? Do you have to go overhead?  The “official” rules: No wetsuits. Fully submerge. I’m making 50 commemorative buttons as a reward for dippers (while they last) and will have a few other prizes. Spectators are welcome to provide moral support, take photos, and partake in the festivities.

How many people come out?  The first year, it was about five people, and it’s grown to about 30 or so. We now have a website (and a Facebook page) and have been promoting it on social media a lot more this year and expect it to attract a big crowd. We commit to dip rain or shine!

Are there any special treats or libations served before or after the affair?  We provide some snacks and celebratory beverages, but encourage people to bring food and drink as well as a reusable cup and a beach chair.

What do you recommend dippers wear before, during, and after?  As I said, no wetsuits, but bathing attire if one is going in the ocean, and warm festive attire for afterward. Prizes for most creative outfits!

Santa Barbara’s Polar Dip co-founder Julie DeAngelis | Credit: Courtesy

How does this compare to other Polar Dips around the world?  We sometimes are given grief for describing this as a Polar Dip when the ocean temperature is in the sixties and the photos show blue skies and palm trees in the background, but it is still a challenge that requires commitment and a bit of courage. I’ve been to a huge New Year’s Day dip at Venice Beach and hope our version keeps growing and brings the community together.

Any fun anecdotes from years past?  Once, a participant did lose her bikini bottom in the rush to dive in, and she had to stay in the cold water until we were able to find it and get it back to her.

What else should we know?  Julie DeAngelis and I want to use the event to contribute to a different local charity each year. We will be selling merchandise from Julie’s Parasols in Paradise line, and I will be selling my books on local plants with a portion of the sales going to support Adam’s Angels.


Santa Barbara’s Polar Dip is on January 1, 2023, at East Beach, across from the Chromatic Arch. Gather at 11 a.m. and the dip is at 11:30 a.m. sharp. See and

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