The Venice Penguin Swim celebrated its 50th year when dozens of swimmers plunged into the brisk and cold Pacific Ocean on New Year’s Day at Venice Beach Breakwater.
After five decades of swimming on New Year’s Day, the event has become a local tradition within the Venice community.
“Some people can simply not start the New Year without it,” said Venice Penguin Swim Event Coordinator Mary McGuirk.
The Penguin swimmers ranged from masters to amateur waders. The first man and woman to complete a 300-yard swim around a buoy and back were crowned Penguin Prince and Princess. This year the Venice Penguin Swim Prince Toby Contarsy, completed the 300-yard swim in one minute and 28 seconds and Princess Sue Stohrer in two minutes and 31 seconds.
Chosen for their enthusiasm and loyalty to the Swim Penguin Annual Event, 92-year-old Julian Myers acted as the Honorary King while Queen Spring Dehaviland was nominated the queen. McGuirk described Myers as a healthy and remarkable Venice community local.
The Coast Guard Boats and helicopters joined in the celebration this year with banners and balloons. Though the event tends to be more popular with the local residents, it is a favorite among international tourists as well. “We have people from Australia and other parts of the world. Some people don’t even know what’s happening until they see a crowd at the beach and wonder why are they running towards the cold water. Then at the spur of the moment, they go in too,” said McGuire.
The number of participants for this year’s event has almost doubled with 121 swimmers this year compared to 80 swimmers in the year of 2009. Many swimmers joined at the last minute without any prior knowledge of the event. “I have no idea. They kept coming in after registration was over. They really had fun,” recalls McGuire.
Despite the cold water, the warm weather helped bring the biggest collection of dedicated Penguins once again, reaching its goal of great fun. The unique celebration of the New Year promised and rewarded many of this year’s swimmers with a hot cup of coffee, doughnuts, and the memory of great camaraderie.
Marissa Bojiuc * firstname.lastname@example.org