COCOA BEACH, Fla. – This year marks the 10th anniversary of Surfing Santas, Cocoa Beach’s most popular holiday event.
The tradition began with a lone surfing Santa and his elves.
“I count the first year as the year myself, my son and my daughter-in-law went surfing and I was Santa and they were elves,” Surfing Santas founder George Trosset told News 6. “I count that as the first year but there was only one Santa.”
If you haven’t been, every year on Christmas Eve, hundreds of surfers of all ages dress up as Jolly Old St. Nick, Mrs. Claus or other holiday characters and paddle out to enjoy a morning of surfing.
The tradition started in 2009 when Trosset, dressed as Santa, went out to hang 10 on Christmas Eve with his son and daughter-in-law dressed as elves. Florida Today photographer Malcolm Denemark captured the very-Florida Christmas moment, and the rest is history.
The next year, Trosset invited some friends to join him and Surfing Santa became plural, creating the now-famous Surfing Santas Christmas Eve tradition.
The event now draws hundreds of surfers and spectators from around Florida and even the world.
Last year, 600 surfers wearing their holiday spirit paddled out and more than 10,000 spectators packed the shore of downtown Cocoa Beach.
However, Trosset said the cheer from Surfing Santas travels much farther than to the people with their toes in the sand.
In 2018, nearly 1 billion people around the world read or saw stories, photos or coverage of the event. For the original surfing Santa, that number equals smiles.
“This incredible event has built a legacy for itself here on the Space Coast,” Space Coast Office of Tourism Executive Director Peter Cranis said. “Now people from all over the world come to participate and media globally cover the event. The best thing about it is it is a major fundraiser for Grind For Life which provides financial assistance to cancer patients and their families.”
I’m confident to say that last year Surfing Santas created over a billion smiles worldwide.George Trosset, original Surfing Santa
It’s true: Looking at the photos on SurfingSantas.org – and having been myself — the spirit of Surfing Santas is infectious.
“When you walk around the event, you hear people chatting, there’s happy talk,” Trosset said. “There’s no one bitching about Donald Trump, complaining about the stock market ... all you hear is positive, happy vibes.”
Trosset said the tradition has even spurred a friendly international competition with Australia after a rash-guard company owner was inspired to start his own Surfing Santas event.
“If we get good surf and good weather, we could hit 1,000 and I don't think I don't think the Aussies will catch us for a while,” Trosset laughs.
So if your reading this, Santa, all we want for Christmas is a nice swell with clean breaks.
The family-friendly event happens along the shore near Coconuts on Beach on Minutemen Causeway.
For live entertainment, local musician Sam Sims will be on the Surfing Santas stage playing some Christmas tunes along with a few beachy songs.
Four years ago, event organizers added a costume contest with prizes. This year will be no different, as participants are encouraged to dress up as their favorite holiday-themed character.
The contest includes the following five categories, based on age and group size:
- Infant to three months
- 4- to 15-year-olds
- Men ages 16 and up
- Women ages 16 and up
- Groups of two or more people
The peoples’ choice grand prize winner will take home a Surfing Santas surfboard.
And what’s a holiday event without a themed beverage? This year, Florida Beer Co. renamed its chocolate stout brew in honor of Surfing Santas.
While the event is free and open to everyone, proceeds from T-shirts, rash guards and other gear sales support the Florida Surf Museum and nonprofit Grind for Life, founded by skateboarder Mike Rogers.
Festive Santa hats are also for sale. The proceeds from the patented CapSanta hat go toward St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
What to know before you go
Where: 3 Minutemen Causeway, Cocoa Beach
When: Dec. 24, 8 a.m. - noon
What: Live music by Sam Sims, surfing, Santas, costume contest with prizes, food and drinks.
Pro tip: Prepare to get there early or park and walk a distance or ride bikes/rideshare.
Pro surfing tip: Felt beards tend to hold up better in the water than the traditional fake hair you might see on Old St. Nick.
For more information visit Surfingsantas.org.