SCL: We have to ask…how did this get started?
George Trosset: Surfing Santas started back in 2009. I called my son on December 23 and said, “Tomorrow morning, I need you on the beach, you and your wife, in elf costumes. I’m going to be surfing Santa, you guys are going to be my elves and we’re going surfing!”
SCL: That explains a crowd of three. How did you get to over 10,000?
George Trosset: Someone from Florida Today happened to take a photo, and the next day, in the lower right-hand corner of the front page, there was “Surfing Santa.” During the next year, I’d see friends or talk to somebody and they’d ask, “Hey, what’s this Surfing Santa thing?” The following year, we had 19 friends come as Surfing Santas. The next year, they invited their friends and then friends of friends. Last year we had over 600 Surfing Santas and 10,000 people on the beach watching.
SCL: We’ve seen the video on YouTube as well.
George Trosset: I bought a Mac Mini with a cinema display on Craigslist. I met the guy at a McDonald’s in Orlando. This guy was six-foot-eight, and looked like a football player. He says, “What do you know about music videos?” I said, “Nothing, but we’re going to make one!” He says, “Maybe I can help you.” The song we chose was Meghan Trainor’s “All About the Bass,” so we made the video “All About the Beach.” It turns out this guy was an established rapper and had gone to the University of California Berkeley’s school of music!
SCL: How many views are your videos getting on YouTube now?
George Trosset: We are probably up to about 100,000 on three different videos. In 2015, the TDC (Brevard’s Tourism Development Council) approved and supplied some funding for our event. We spent the money on social media and grew our Facebook friends from 500 to nearly 10,000. Then we were designated a “signature event,” meaning we were locked in for years to come. With the TDC’s help, we’ve been able to grow the event every year.
Last year, the TDC engaged their PR agency out of Atlanta to help. They published an article naming us one of the five best places to go for Christmas. Cocoa Beach was number one. New York City was number four or five. We’re now regularly featured on the morning news programs and network newscasts. There’s nothing controversial about our event; it’s all filled with good fun. So far, with our efforts and their help, we have over 450 media placements with a half billion views across all media outlets with a value of about $1.2 million.
SCL: The event is a holiday tradition for many people now. Do you have a different charity every year? Or does the money raised just fund the event and keep it going?
George Trosset: The Florida Surf Museum is the main benefactor. They’ve got a small museum in the Ron Jon complex in Cocoa Beach. Also, Mike Rogers’ “Grind for Life” has been one of our beneficiaries, too.
SCL: What’s next for Surfing Santa?
George Trosset: One of my dreams, one of my goals, is that we’ll have Jimmy Buffett play his new hit song, “Surfing Santas” at our event one year. He hasn’t written that song yet; I just think that one of these days we’re going to get Jimmy to write a song called “Surfing Santa,” and then play it on our beach.
This year’s Surfing Santas event is December 24 at 8 a.m. at the end of Minuteman Causeway, Cocoa Beach. Read more at www.SurfingSantas.org. Whether you’re young or old, beginner or expert, people from all walks of life are welcome to surf the waves and have fun in the sun on Cocoa Beach! No registration is required to surf, and the event is free to both surfers and spectators. See you and yours this Christmas Eve dressed up to surf and ready to celebrate with Santa.