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A cold Surf City Splash? New Year’s dash might be warmer this year, thanks to El Niño

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From left, Claudia Patrice, Lee Love and Kathleen Johnson, all of Surf City Splash, pose for a portrait at Zack’s in Huntington Beach. The annual Surf City Splash, where people go into the Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day, is a fundraiser for the International Surfing Museum.
(Kevin Chang / HB Independent)

Many people ring in the New Year with friends and family by watching the ball drop in Times Square on television and viewing the Rose Parade the next morning.

Then there are folks like Huntington Beach resident Lee Love, who prefer to be more adventurous and partake in the International Surfing Museum’s annual Surf City Splash fundraiser.

Hundreds of brave souls are expected to run into the Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day, which Love says is a way for people to “wash off 2015 and bring in 2016.”

For $20, participants will be served a pancake breakfast provided by Zack’s Pier Plaza from 9 to 11 a.m. and a certificate of participation for those who jump into the ocean at noon. Proceeds go toward the International Surfing Museum at 411 Olive Ave.

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Love, who has organized the event for the museum since 2001, said she jumps into the ocean almost every morning throughout the year to catch about a dozen waves on her boogie board and to prove to others that the water is not that cold.

Huntington Beach Marine Safety Lt. Claude Panis said the ocean should be around 58 degrees, which is slightly warmer than the seasonal average of mid-50s. He attributes the warmer water to El Niño.

“People are going to go in and get a bit of chill, but it’s not nearly as cold as it usually is,” he said.

Love has organized similar New Year’s splashes before, first with the Huntington Beach Rotary Club and then with the Huntington Beach Host Lions. No matter what organization she was a part of, Love was compelled to host the event because of its power to bring people together.

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“People are glad to give money for a good cause, and this is a good cause,” she said.

Love has participated in each Surf City Splash. However, her colleague and good friend Kathleen Johnson, who has helped organize the event since 2001, refuses to go into the water.

“I may put a toe in, but I’m not interested in doing the entire full-body plunge,” Johnson said with a laugh. “Honey, it’ll wreck my ‘do.”

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IF YOU GO 

What: 16th annual Surf City Splash

Where: Huntington Beach Pier, Main Street and Pacific Coast Highway

When: 9 a.m. to noon Friday

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Cost: $20 for breakfast and certificate of participation

Information: www.hbsurfcitysplash.com


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