Annenberg Community Beach House hosts Santa Monica’s inaugural Polar Bear Swim

Story and Photos by Julie Grace Immink

1. Polar Bear swimmers storm the sea from Santa Monica Beach.
2. Morgan Sliff welcomes Christian Stutzman back to shore with a bear hug.
3. Pete the Polar Bear mascot kept L.A. County Lifeguards company as they kept an eye on things from the shore.
4. Kids and families got first dibs on a shallow-water dip.
5. Margaret Dessau is making the most of her new home.

About 100 hardy souls washed away 2017 with a teeth-chattering plunge into frigid ocean waters last Saturday during Santa Monica’s inaugural Polar Bear Swim outside the Annenberg Community Beach House.

The morning ocean temperature was a bracing 59 degrees, and a dozen Los Angeles County Lifeguards equipped with paddleboards and jet skis stood by just in case anyone needed help.

But fun remained the order of the day, with a kids’ dip in shallow water followed by an adult swim race to a buoy and back. Professional longboarder Christian Stutzman was the first swimmer to make it back from the
buoy, and native South Bay surfer Morgan Sliff congratulated him with
a big bear hug.

Both veteran and first-time polar bears warmed up afterward in the 91-degree waters of the Annenberg Community Pool, played games, sipped hot chocolate and toasted marshmallows for s’mores.

Polar Bear swimmer Margaret Dessau, a retired doctor and photographer who had moved to Santa Monica a week earlier, used to participate in the famous Coney Island Polar Bear Plunge as a young girl. She’s been enjoying the sunny SoCal weather and has found the people of her new community to be very warm.