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VARNAMTOWN—O’Neal “Knot” Varnam celebrated his 71st birthday Monday by doing his annual backflip into the Lockwood Folly River.
After checking the water to make sure there were no logs or other objects that might hinder his style, the Varnamtown resident climbed the ladder to the top of a wooden piling at the boat docks next to Garland’s Seafood and performed a quick backward somersault into the water.
“I told him I was going to get up there with him,” joked Rosie Boyd, Varnam’s cousin, who was among friends and relatives who stopped by to watch and help Varnam celebrate on the patio at Garland’s Fresh Seafood.
“I told him he’s crazy,” Boyd added.
Varnam said he has been performing the annual birthday dive “all my life.”
“I’ve got just 29 more to go,” he joked after emerging from the water, vowing to keep diving until he reaches 100.
“If I begin to feel like I can’t do the 100, I’ll just do ’em all at one time,” he said.
Varnam said the backflip-into-the-river is something he’s always been able to do.
“It’s just something that comes naturally,” he said. “My father could turn a backflip, run wide open, land on his feet and keep on goin’.”
Varnam said he used to dive from the tops of bridges.
“I dived off the top of the [old] Holden Beach bridge one time,” he said. “The top was about as high as the new one.”
The trick to diving is “knowing how to land,” he said.
For Varnam, the birthday dive is the perfect way to celebrate growing older.
“You’re as old as you feel and act,” he said. “Today, I feel like I’m 20.”
Laura Lewis is a staff writer at the Beacon. Reach her at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.