New Year’s Day Tradition: Penguin Club Ocean Swim returns to Venice Beach


Give your New Year a cool fresh start with an ocean swim on Venice Beach this Thursday, Jan. 1!

Join the Penguin Club at 11 am to sign up for the free event; the swim begins at noon where Venice Blvd. meets the ocean.

Free snacks and hot drinks will be provided courtesy of the Sidewalk Café.

Commemorative t-shirts will be available for $10.

The Penguin Club hosts its annual Ocean Swim on New Year's Day in Venice. Photo Courtesy
The Penguin Club hosts its annual Ocean Swim on New Year’s Day in Venice. Photos Courtesy

Southern California Aquatics (SCAQ), a Masters swim club, now runs the event.

Cecelia Kilger, a Los Angeles transplant, began the tradition in 1952.

As a child, she swam in the frigid waters of Lake Michigan.

After getting caught in the surf off Playa del Rey, she got a tip to try the Venice Beach backwater area.

There, she found other swimmers, and they met up throughout the year.

One lifeguard suggested they start an informal club, and in 1960, the group became official.

Since then, the “Penguin Club” has kicked off the year with an ocean swim.

It is dedicated to Cecelia, who died at the age of 94 in 2002.

Participants can choose between courses: one for people who swim for fun, and another for those who want to compete.

Everyone will receive a certificate, but the fastest male and female swimmer in the competition course are crowned prince and princess.

Longtime event organizer Mary McGurk selects the king and queen from the amateur course.

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