In The Pipeline: Starting the year with a splash

December 28, 2011|By Chris Epting
  • People take off for the water in the 2011 Huntington Beach Surf City Splash.
People take off for the water in the 2011 Huntington Beach… (Courtesy Lee Love )

You've seen the Polar Plunges before, right? You know, usually on New Year's Day, a group of people jump into icy ocean waters as a way of welcoming in the new year, thus attracting lots of media attention.

The tradition goes back to 1903, when Bernarr Macfadden founded the Coney Island Polar Bear Club. He was referred to as the "Father of Physical Culture" due to the fact that he was an early advocate of physical fitness, natural foods and physical exercise.

Macfadden espoused that "[o]ur bodies are our most glorious possessions, that health-wealth is our greatest asset ... that weakness is truly a crime ... that every man can be a vigorous vital specimen of masculinity: that every woman can be a splendidly strong, well poised specimen of femininity." The Polar Bears, as you may know, are famous for their plunge into the icy New Year's Day waters off New York's Coney Island.


If Coney Island had Macfadden, then Huntington Beach has Lee Love, a local businesswoman who owns a consulting firm. Inspired by a plunge she watched at Balboa Island years ago, she got to work here in Huntington when she realized what a powerful fundraiser an event like that could be.

So for 12 years now, she has organized the Surf City Splash, our city's own take on the Polar Plunge. OK, our waters are relatively warm compared to what the East-Coasters endure, but as Love sees it, that just makes it more inviting.

"Our temperatures ensure that more people can enjoy a brisk, invigorating dip to help usher in the new year for some great causes," she told me.

Love originally put on the event for one wonderful cause in particular, Canine Companions for Independence. It's a national nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of children and adults with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. (You can visit it at

But donations this year will also go to benefit charities such as the Therapeutic Riding Center, the Lions SightFirst Foundation, Project Self-Sufficiency and other groups supported by the local Lions Club, which is sponsoring the pancake breakfast the morning of the event. The Downtown Business Improvement District is also participating in the Splash as part of the SCORE (Surf City Offers for Restaurants and Entertainment) program.

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