COCOA BEACH, Fla. – Ten years ago George Trosset caught a few waves in his homemade Santa suit accompanied by his son and daughter-in-law dressed as elves. His quirky idea quickly caught on becoming a Cocoa Beach annual tradition.
“Surfing Santas makes people smile,” said Trosset, the founder of the Surfing Santas event.
On Dec. 24, 2009, Trosset went surfing dressed in a Santa suit his wife made for him.
“I had my son and my daughter in law with us and they were elves,” Trosset recalled.
What he didn’t know was that a Florida Today newspaper photographer was also watching.
“They put our picture on the front page and that’s what kind of kicked it all off," Trossett said. “I had no idea it would turn into what it has become.”
The following year, Trosset was joined by more Santas.
Now 10 years later, thousands of people join Trosset and other Surfing Santas in Cocoa Beach for the Christmas Eve event.
“Last year we had over 600 people dressed in Santa suits and I’d say about 10 thousand people came to watch,” Trossett said. “Surfing Santas became the best-kept secret in Cocoa Beach. Surfing Santas is my Christmas. I know we’re making lots of smiles around the world and to me that’s important.”
Each year surfers from all over arrive with their surfboards, paddleboards and boogie boards.
Among them is Cocoa Beach surfing Santa Cliff Kuehner, 68, who arrives in a 1953 Pontiac Woody. A vehicle that was popular among surfers in the 1950s because it had enough space for surfboards.
Born and raised in Cocoa Beach, Kuehner was 8 years old when he came across a surfboard and took it out for a ride.
Seven years ago Kuehner decided to dress up as Santa and joins hundreds of other surfers also dressed up for the Surfing Santas event. He’s been hooked ever since.
“I said I’ll grow out my beard and my hair out and, you know, I’m retired, I’d love to play surfing Santa,” Kuehner said.
This year, the event benefits two local charities in Brevard county: the Florida Surf Museum, which preserves the history of surfing, and Grind for Life, a nonprofit that supports cancer victims.
“We love the event, we love helping people," Kuehner said. “My heart just glows from the joy ... for raising money to help people.”