NAVARRE BEACH — All over the Emerald Coast, locals and visitors alike chose to start the New Year with an icy dip in the Gulf of Mexico.

And with temps in the low to mid 30s, it was icy in and out of the water.

On Navarre Beach, hundreds gathered for the inaugural Pirate Plunge organized by the nonprofit Pirates on the Panhandle. Proceeds of the benefit were donated to the Navarre Weekend Food Program, which provides meals to children of low income families.

"We anticipate over 300 participants today," said Jerry Foster, president of Pirates on the Panhandle. "This is a good time for the community to come together and support an important cause."

There were some delays to the actual plunge with people waiting in line for wristbands, but that didn't change the enthusiasm of participating plungers.

"This is my third or fourth time doing a plunge," said Laura Gentry, who wore her pirate costume hidden under a leather jacket. "It's not so bad. ... You just grab your towel and run for dry clothes when you're done. I also brought a pirate onsie."

Some skipped the line and went straight for the plunge, like Bob Rucker, a snowbird from St. Louis.

"It's alright," he said wiping his face with a towel. "Lake Michigan is colder than this."

Water temps Monday afternoon were around 60 degrees. The hard part was emerging out of the water.

Around noon was the main event with the crowds splashing into the water ... and then quickly running out. A lot of folks kept with the pirate theme of the event wearing their best pirate get-up in the water. Roger Wildermuth of Shalimar was completely decked out in a skeleton-print body suit, pirate hat and sword and even brought a pirate towel to dry off with.

"I drove out here trying to tell myself not to do it," Wildermuth said with a laugh. "But I wanted to do it and prove I'm still alive after all these years. I'm 68 and will be 69 later this month."

Santa Rosa County Commissioner Rob Williamson said this was his first-ever plunge. The only preparation he did before entering the water in his patriotic suit was pray, he said.

Like many others who came to the plunge, Williamson came out of the water with a big smile on his face.

"It feels like a beautiful day in Navarre. ... It is cold, but only for a few seconds," he said. "The last year has been rewarding and I'm so excited for 2018."