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Ryan Smith, 8, charges into the chilly Pacific leading the group of "pink ladies and top hats" during the 13th annual Surf City Splash.
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Plunging into the New Year – and the surf


HUNTINGTON BEACH – It was a hazy start to the New Year – not because of all the alcohol consumed the night before, but because of the thick fog blanket that lingered on the sand.

But just as noon approached on Sunday the thick fog disappeared, allowing more than a hundred revelers to plunge into a sunny New Year on the south side of the Huntington Beach Pier for the 12th annual Surf City Splash celebration.

What started as a few friends doing something fun and different on New Year's Day has turned into a tradition that grows with each year, now with hundreds of people showing up in swimsuits and crazy costumes to take a dip in the chilly water to wash off the old, and bring in the new.

"There's no gift exchanged, there's no expectations, it's just a great day to just celebrate life," said organizer Lee Love.

The event has turned into a fundraiser, with breakfast served in the morning and certificates available to raise funds for various charities like the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach, Canine Companions for Independence, and more.

One of the best parts about the event is seeing what kind of crazy costumes people come up with. There are plenty of New Year's party hats. There's the pirate who goes all out every year, looking like he just walked off the set of "Pirates of the Caribbean." One group of girls wore bright pink wigs.

Those who weren't brave enough to take a dip watched from the sand and hundreds lined the pier to watch.

Splashers of all ages lined the sand and as soon as the countdown was complete as noon struck, they rushed into the water. Friends and family splashed each other, sounds of screams and New Year's horns filled the beach, and people ran out as quick as they ran in.

Among the oldest plungers were Hugh Goldstein, 83, and wife Amy, 78.

The couple - who have been married more than 50 years - came out of the cold water holding each others hands. It was the third year they've taken the plunge together.

"He's holding me up," she quipped.

"Our hands are frozen together," Hugh said with a chuckle.

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com

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