COCOA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — For the surfing Santas off Florida’s central coast, the Atlantic Ocean felt more like the North Pole than the Sunshine State as temperatures on Saturday morning plunged to around freezing, while freeze warnings were in place for at least half of the state.
Parts of the Florida Panhandle had wind chills that dipped into the single digits on Saturday morning, and interior parts of central Florida had temperatures plunging as low as 27 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 2.7 Celsius degrees).
“It’s a frigid start to your #ChristmasEve across the area,” the National Weather Service in Tallahassee tweeted.
Miami was among the last holdouts of warm weather in the U.S. on Friday, but by Saturday morning temperatures had dipped to below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) for the first time in almost a year. South Floridians were on the watch for falling iguanas. The cold-blooded reptiles that reside in Miami suburbs typically become immobilized when temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 Celsius degrees).
Despite the frigid temperature, the 14th annual Christmas Eve Surfing Santas festival was held Saturday morning at Cocoa Beach on Florida’s Space Coast.
The event has grown from 10 surfers dressed in Santa costumes when it started in 2009 to hundreds of participants on surfboards, boogie boards and paddle boards in years past. Close to 140 surfers braved the frigid water Saturday morning. Almost 10,000 spectators showed up to cheer them on, and a beachside restaurant distributed free hot cocoa to help them stay warm, according to organizers.