Del Mar, CA … Proving that many of the best things in life are free – and really fun! –on January 1, 2016, more than 2,000 people, most attired in bathing suits or shorts and t-shirts (no wetsuits allowed), some sporting holiday hats and costumes, joyfully dove into what has become a cherished New Year’s Day tradition: the Del Mar Lifeguard Penguin Plunge.
As the 11 am start to this 30th annual event approached, the record crowd jumped up and down in anticipation (and to keep warm in the 50-something-degrees, with a chillier water temperature) at Del Mar Beach as Chief Lifeguard Pat Vergne conducted the countdown from the Beach Safety Center. Then, kids, adults, seniors and entire families took the Penguin Plunge. Amid laughter, high fives and squeals of delight, many splashed about and then dashed back to shore while intrepid swimmers enjoyed a brisk workout. Then everyone plunged into about 1,400 donuts and warm coffee from VG Donut & Bakery in Cardiff. The refreshments were made possible thanks to contributions from the Poseidon Restaurant and Del Mar Motel.
Telling people to watch for a video to be posted soon, Vergne says, “We present this annual Penguin Plunge as our gift to the community. Admission is free and everyone is welcome to get in the swim or watch from shore. Each Penguin Plunger receives a certificate of completion.”
One longtime Del Mar resident has amassed many certificates. Tensia Trejo, now 88, was one of a handful of folks at the first Penguin Plunge in 1986. Over the years, she has missed just one event. Trejo is a Board member of Friends of the Powerhouse, the nonprofit organization which supports the Del Mar Lifeguards as well as many Del Mar beach-related amenities, including the Beach Safety Center.
Board President Maile D’Arcy says, “People like Tensia are what make Del Mar special. We are happy to have her input and energy as we work to preserve iconic structures, create and renovate facilities, and ensure that the Del Mar beach and park areas can be accessed and enjoyed by all. We encourage people who do enjoy these signature amenities to show their support by purchasing customized bricks and planks on our website to be placed at and around the Center.”
The Friends of the Powerhouse (FOP) is a 501(c)(3) organization formed in 2001 by dedicated Del Mar residents sharing a passion for their community. The FOP’s inception dates back to the 1980s with efforts to support the City’s construction of Powerhouse Park and Community Center. With a mission to preserve historical and architecturally significant properties, promote social welfare, educate the public and protect the community and its landmarks in the Del Mar beach area, the FOP also supports the City’s Lifeguard Service. It raises money through events, naming opportunities and general donations.