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KEVIN SULLIVAN, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Tammy Godfrey, of Huntington Beach, blows a noisemaker after her plunge into the cold ocean during the annual Surf City Splash at the Huntington Beach Pier Tuesday.
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Surf, sand and splash kick off 2013 in O.C.

ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Connor Smith, dressed as an elf, walked shivering out of the 53-degree water on the north side of the Huntington Beach Pier after a quick dip.

"Very cold," said the 11-year-old from Huntington Beach, barely able to speak words through chattering teeth. "I'm still tingling."

Smith and a few hundred took the plunge or watched from the sand and pier Tuesday morning to usher in the New Year. The Surf City Splash, celebrating its 13th year, drew revelers dressed in wacky costumes – everything from groups with New Year's hats to girls in straw hula skirts and even a man in a furry black gorilla suit.

"The water was so cold, that it was easier this year – we're all numb, we don't feel it," said Huntington splasher Denise Stanek.

Beachgoers hit the sand and surf to bring in the start of 2013 at other O.C. spots. Further south in Newport Beach, as the sun tried to crack through cloudy skies, surfers started their day catching waves. An anticipated early morning swell failed to show – a disappointing start to 2013 for some surfers.

Ryan Callaghan of Newport Beach, his head covered with a thick wetsuit hood, said the cold water and small waves weren't going to keep him out of the water on the first day of the year.

"I'm trying to surf more, that's my New Year's resolution," he said.

Karl Sator of Orange said it was a cold but fun start to the New Year. He also had an ocean-inspired resolution.

"I'm going to take up stand-up paddleboarding this year, it's good for days like this when it's not big," he said.

Julie and Roger Warren of Newport Beach strolled along the sand walking their dog, Tano.

"It's beautiful, it's Jan. 1 and the sun is out," Roger Warren said. "We just came back from Mammoth, it was cold up there. It's nice to get back to the sunshine on the beach. It's the best place to be."

Cheri Hill and Todd Clucas, both of Newport Beach, headed to beachfront Mutt Lynch's bar dressed in bath robes for the annual New Year's Day pajama party.

They said they kept New Year's Eve mellow in anticipation for New Year's Day, when they planned to kick off the morning with a mimosa or Bloody Mary.

"We're celebrating the beginning of this fabulous year we have in front of us," Hill said, noting that it's the only day of the year she can dress like a 4-year-old and get away with it.

"We're ready for it," she said. "We're done with 2012. We're ready for a fresh new start. We celebrate the day in our pajamas. Everyone loves it."

The crazy costumes were out in full force in Huntington Beach for the Surf City Splash, where participants showed up at 10 a.m. instead of the usual noon start time this year.

A group of Huntington Beach High students came dressed in tutus.

"This is my first year. They dragged me into jumping into the freezing water," said Lauren Wright, 15. "I'm nervous, like I'm going to turn into an ice cube."

Her friend Austin Smith, who goes to Edison High, opted to stay dry.

"I am refusing. It's going to be freezing cold," said Smith, 16. "I'm just going to watch them. It's going to be funny."

This year the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum took over the event from longtime organizer Lee Love, who handed over the reins after more than a decade. The pancake breakfast benefited the Lion's Club, while proceeds from registration for the Surf City Splash went to the museum and surf programs at various high schools in Huntington Beach.

Cindy Cross, director at large for the surf museum, worried that the time change and wet weather would mean a low turn out, but as 10 a.m. neared, the crowd swelled to a few hundred.

"People in Huntington are generally a lot of fun and a little bit wacky – maybe a lot wacky," she said. "They like to have fun. ... It's a great way to start the year."

Jack McEnterfer shows up every year. He says it's a way for him to spend the morning with family and to celebrate his birthday, which falls on Jan. 2.

"I'll be 77... If this doesn't kill me," he said with a chuckle.

As 10 a.m. neared, the participants gathered while supporters on the sand and pier cheered, and in a blink the group was rushing into the toe-numbing waters – high fiving, screaming and hugging as they celebrated their brave accomplishment.

"It's all about fun, family, community and celebrating the New Year – and new beginnings," said Huntington Beach resident Janelle O'Rork.

Contact the writer: lconnelly@ocregister.com


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