How does Santa arrive in Southern California? On a surfboard, natch.
Vince Ray of Redondo Beach appeared amid the waves of the South Bay this week for his 13th year as St. Nick of the sea, carrying on what’s become a classic SoCal tradition started by the Beach Cities’ Easy Reader weekly newspaper more than four decades ago.
Each year, he dons a red wetsuit designed by Body Glove and paddles out, aboard a red “sleigh” from ET Surf.
“When I get out of the water, kids will see me from a long way off,” Ray, 56, said. “I do a lot of posing for pictures. … It’s fun, silly way we celebrate.”
In a 2-minute video of this year’s outing posted to YouTube, Ray “sleighs” to the tune of some sweet surf rock, at one point signing a double “hang loose” with both black-gloved hands.
Ray, who has taught thousands to surf at his Hermosa Beach Chevron Surf School and who helps the Mira Costa High surf team, said the tradition is in keeping with the surf-town eccentricities of quirky Hermosa Beach. He took over as Surfing Santa from Paul Matthies, who first performed the role.
This year, Ray was accompanied by two “elves” — Sara Kohrogi and Jordan Wible of the surf team at Mira Costa High in Manhattan Beach — during the holiday surf session on Monday.
“These girls were doing circles around me,” Ray said. “They’re great surfers.”
After struggling to keep his Santa beard and hat on, Ray said he eventually sewed them onto a scuba hood that helps the crucial costume elements stay in place.
The Easy Reader has been putting Surfing Santa on its holiday cover for more than 40 years, according to the newspaper’s website.