CORONADO CALIF. (KGTV) — It began as just a few friends dressing up as Santa and going surfing on Christmas Eve. Now, it's turned into an annual tradition for hundreds of people and helps children in need in San Diego.
"This kind of started as a way for us to enjoy our unique, beautiful winter weather here in San Diego and rub into everyone's faces that we can still go outside and surf and hang out as a community," Ian Urtnowski said.
Urtnowski started the Annual Santa Surf-off in 2011, now celebrating its 11th year.
Visit Coronado Shores on Christmas Eve, and you'll see hundreds of people gathered, many in costume and almost all wearing free Santa hats, given out for free by Urtnowski's company, URT Clothing.
But being a Surfing Santa is not easy. After all, the hats and costumes are not designed for water activities.
"Very difficult," Robert Kelly said. "I decided I didn't want to head out into too deep of water. Glad I wore a wetsuit underneath. Yeah, it's pretty heavy."
As the event grew, Urtnowski saw an opportunity for it to become something more than a fun holiday tradition.
"Three years ago, we had so many people coming to the event," he said. "We thought, 'let's do something positive for the community,' so we started asking people to bring in toys."
By 1 pm, attendees had filled a table with donated toys that will be given to Ronald McDonald House, which helps support families dealing with illness.