‘Surfing Santas’ hit Cocoa Beach amid Florida arctic chill

Surfing Santas — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Image by: mikeledray

With temperatures below zero, it might not seem like a Florida Christmas, but there is one custom we simply cannot abandon.

On Saturday at Cocoa Beach, hundreds of “Surfing Santas” caught some waves before the big guy got ready to distribute his gifts over the entire world. In 2009, a surf session for one family served as the inspiration for the yearly “Surfing Santas” event.

Since then, it has developed into a distinctive and enjoyable charity event. Over the years, this group of costumed kahunas has expanded to record-breaking sizes, with more than 800 “Surfing Santas” and close to 10,000 spectators.

Additionally, it has generated tens of thousands of dollars for Cocoa Beach-area charities.

The Florida Surf Museum, which is preserving Florida’s surfing heritage, and Grind For Life, a local organization that helps cancer patients, both profit from the event.

Soaking wet, wearing a dripping white beard, a red Santa Claus jacket with a gold belt buckle over his wetsuit, and sunglasses, Felix Pellegrino described how it felt to dive into the ocean on Saturday morning amid the freezing wind chills.

“Instant regret,” recalled Pellegrino, 17, a Satellite Beach resident and Melbourne Central Catholic senior.

“It’s freezing. That’s the only way to describe it,” Pellegrino said. “It is freezing.”

At the closest NWS reporting location to Cocoa Beach, Patrick Space Force Base, the temperature barely rose to 36 degrees at 7 and 8 in the morning, according to meteorologist Scott Kelly. The wind chill index was a chilling 26 when combined with a 16 mph northwest wind, according to Kelly.

The temperature increased a bit as the sun rose overhead, reaching 44 at noon, the customary end of Surfing Santas, and 43 by 11 a.m. In order to keep the action moving throughout Saturday’s event, organizers accelerated important activities due to the chilly weather, according to founder George Trosset.

“They’ve been surfing all morning. There have been a dozen people out since daybreak, really — crazy people,” Trosset said about 9:35 a.m., standing behind the event stage on the sand off Minutemen Causeway and laughing.

“Judging from what the weather report was before we started, I didn’t expect this kind of crowd. But I’ve got to say, a little cold weather can’t stop a Surfing Santa,” Trosset said.

“During our costume contest, the crowd was electric. I think we had more costume contest participants this year than ever. And the level of costumes? Way high on the Richter scale,” he said.

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