By Kathryn B. Creedy (Photos by Brooks and Kathryn Creedy)
While Christmas on the beach may not have the warm, Currier & Ives coziness of our usual white Christmas in New England, the Christmas spirit on the Space Coast of Florida couldn’t have been better thanks to the Satellite Beach Boat Parade, the Space Coast LightFest and the sixth annual surfin’ and skydiving Santas.
We were a little worried about missing the winter in New England where we have spent Christmas with our family for decades. Even so, we were determined to capture the spirit of the season and, thankfully, it was not hard.
We began as the last of the sun left the sky at the staging area of the boat parade where Christmas lights outlined large and small watercraft otherwise lost to the dark waters of the Banana River. The parade finished on Mathers Bridge near our home in Indian Harbour Beach where the 700-foot long, low-level, swing bridge, opened and closed as the festive flotilla made their way to the end of Merritt Island.
A few nights later we attended the Lightfest, a 45-minute drive through an electric wonderland of nutcrackers, candy canes, snow-flake arches and, of course, Santa. We passed trains, motorcycles and airplanes, all sporting Santa as giant poinsettias slid by. Jumping frogs and stockings with presents formed other arches as we made our way around a lake dotted with the reflected lights of the displays on the other side.
And what to our wondering eyes should appear but eight tiny reindeer along with a giant dragon and a castle. Befitting our coastal Christmas theme were flamingos, alligators, crabs, lobsters, a lighthouse and sailboats.
But it was the Surfin’ Santas that really set the tone. They may have surfin’ Santa’s elsewhere in the world, but they would be hard pressed to beat the event at Cocoa Beach, FL, where 285 Santa surfers gathered on a bright and sunny Christmas Eve morning to ring in the season. About 20 Santas floated gracefully below an azure-blue sky dotted by clouds that would look at home as Santa’s white and fluffy beard.
Sponsored by SurfinSantas.org, the event raised funds for Grind for Life, a local cancer organization, and the Cocoa Beach Surf Museum. The organization was hoping to surpass the 210 Santas that surfed in 2013 and did so handily counting more than 300 either riding the waves or the wind in the sky.
The event began in 2009 when local Santa George Trosset, inspired by surfing Santas featured in a television commercial, gathered his family and dressed them in Santa suits for some yuletide fun in the sea. The following year, friends joined in for a total of 19 Surfin’ Santas, then 84 in 2011 and 159 in 2012. The small residential neighborhood was overwhelmed, forcing a move to a more central location in downtown Cocoa Beach with more space for the Surfin’ Santas and the crowds they gather.
With a backdrop of dozens of surfboards in all shapes and sizes, participants gathered on the sand, beachside of Coconuts restaurant at the Eastern terminus of the Minuteman Causeway. Drive any further and you’ll get wet. The occasional green Christmas trees and a single Frosty the Snowman costume peppered a sea of red suits. Hundreds of onlookers scrambled in and out of the Santa scrum to document the occasion which now grace the Twitter sphere at #SurfinSantas.
My daughter, Brooks, and I pose behind the wall of surfboards
As they posed, the Santas, their collective entourages and the assembled merrymakers listened to a brief invocation and a tribute to recently deceased Champion Surfer Mike Tabeling, who, with Kelly Slater, were a treasured part of the Cocoa Beach scene. Santas continued to gather as local surf shop owner Balsa Bill played the ukulele, singing that Hawaiian beach-time Christmas favorite Mele Kalikimaka.
It was then time for the Surfin’ Santa official theme song performed by local singer/songwriter Anna Lusk who assisted in composing All About The Beach set to the tune of Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass.
“There is only one thing left to do,” intoned the announcer as the closing chords of the music wafted away on the wind. “Hit the surf.” A sea of red turned as one, heading for their boards. And off they went charging through the crowds lining the water. They emerged in all their Santa regalia and headed seaward, belly flopping on their boards as they crested the first wave. It took 10 minutes before the last Santa plunged into the cold, refreshing surf as others caught their waves to ride back toward the beach.
Back they came, suits, hats, beards plastered to their bodies. Smiles lit their faces as they turned and went out for another ride. One Santa smiled at the crowd gently patting his little round belly as he neared the beach. The surfers were backlit by the early morning winter sun as kite surfers joined them from further down the beach. The sun, the sea and the waves have never been more picturesque.
The epitome of the Santa in Colbie Caillat’s Christmas in the Sand
Soon, organizers began clearing the beach as the de Havilland Twin Otter jump aircraft circled the sandy landing zone. All eyes looked skyward at the circling aircraft awaiting the first puff of a parachute to mark the start. Dressed in full Santa costumes, these high-flying wind surfers floated beneath their colorful canopies, wafting down through the clouds as they navigated their way between surf and crowds.
Though we miss our family and friends up north deeply, it has been a great Christmas trading sledding for sand. Christmas in the sand has all the charms of its northern counterparts, just a little bit different. I reflected that most Christmas events are for kids. Not so for the Surfin’ Santas of Cocoa Beach. As I walked though the crowds and looked around me, it was clear the Surfin’ Santas gave the big kids in all of us the true joy, wonder and spirit of the season. Merry Christmas everyone! Surf’s up!
Click the link below for the slideshow of our Christmas in the Sand courtesy of Colbie Caillat. Her song is our new Christmas theme song!