Story and photos by Tom Dugan
December 24th, 2017, Cocoa Beach Fla. saw the biggest gathering of Santas ever. There were men, women, kids, dogs, grandmas and grandpas all dressed up in renditions of Jolly Saint Nick, from straight forward to very creative Santas, creating a virtual human sea of red at the foot of Minute Man Causeway. Santa could be seen everywhere, either in the water on surfboards or hanging out on the beach enjoying the sunny, 80 degree winter weather along with all the festivities.
Local Cocoa Beach surfer George Trosset started the event “SURFING SANTAS” in 2009 with just three people. Less than a decade later, this year’s gathering had 837 documented Santa’s surfing, with an estimated 10,000 spectators. The event has fast become a world phenomenon and you know you really hit the big time when, on Thursday December 21st, the Jumbotron in New York City’s Time Square posts a picture of a Surfing Santa with the towering words emblazoned upon it, “FLORIDA’S SPACE COAST “SURFING SANTAS” EVENT VYING FOR GUINESS WORLD RECORD ON CHRISTMAS EVE”.
Not bad for small town Cocoa Beach.
Most important is that a rather whimsical idea hatched by a couple of local surfer dudes turned Surfing Santas almost a decade ago has evolved into huge fund raiser that over the last eight years has raised over $60,000 donated dollars for Grind For Life, a Cocoa Beach nonprofit that helps cancer patients get to and from treatments as well as for The Florida Surf Museum.
Sunday saw a perfect day on Florida’s Space Coast with 81 degree sunny skies and around 70 degree water. There were Santas in just baggies and bikinis and kids playing in the shore break. The waves were not as good as other years running in the 2 to 3 ft range, but there was just enough surf for everyone to catch a wave and have some fun and that’s really what it’s all about.
The world famous Hunter Joslin emceed the event with music from Balsa Bill Yerkes, Anna & the Surfing Santas Band followed by a costume contest. Local band, the Aquanauts finished off the morning’s entertainment and then it was time for all the Santas to hit the water. The best way to get a count was handing out wrist bands that totaled a whopping 837. There were quite a few Santas that didn’t get a band so who knows the actual count but the established number stands for 2017.
George should be given the key to the city as this gathering was the biggest I have ever seen in Cocoa Beach and, with decades of nearby Cape Canaveral rocket launches, and many years of National Kidney Foundation surfing events, that is saying a lot.
Next year will be another attempt to get even bigger and better, so if you’re looking to have some Christmas cheer and a ton of good family fun, be there December 24th and dress appropriately.