April 17, 2021 #1 Local News, Forum, Information and Event Source for Venice Beach, California.

Fresh Start

by Melanie Camp.

January 1, 2018. Noon on Venice Beach. 63° outside and a little chillier in the water. The rest of the country would say we were cheating, but for sunny Southern Californians, the temperatures were frosty enough for a fresh start to the New Year.

It is a decades-old tradition. The Penguin Swim has hundreds kick start the new year with a splash at the Venice Breakwater, on the beach at the end of Windward Avenue.

63° outside and a little chillier in the water. Photo by Melanie Camp.

Southern California Aquatics (SCAQ) run the event every year. SCAQ Founder, Clay Evans, told Yo! Venice, “I swam it for ten years, then I help run it for ten years, and after some of the founders passed away I inherited this thing, and we’ve been keeping it going for ten more years.”

The event has a long history, particularly so for the Van Patten family, who are now celebrating three generations of Penguin swimmers. The family tradition started in 1973. Jimmy Van Patten told Yo! Venice for his father, actor Dick Van Patten, the swim was his lucky charm. “He’d say, ‘let’s do it for good luck’ and it’s become such a big thing for the whole family.”

A Van Patten family tradition. L to R Darryl Goldman, Jimmy Van Patten, Harrison Gamble, Duke Van Patten. Photo by Melanie Camp.

Swimmers choose between two courses. One is a fun dip of 50-yards and the other, for those up for a challenge, is a 400-yard swimming race. Wetsuits are a no, no according to race OG Jane Delynn. “It’s considered bad form to wear wetsuits,” she told Yo! Venice, with a chuckle. “It’s just exhilarating. The first day of the year,” she added.

Van Patten said he remembers a time Farrah Fawcett used to join the swim. “Big stars used to come down,” he said.

By far the biggest star at this year’s Penguin Swim was 8-year-old Lilysa. The youngest to take on the 400-yard race, she said while the water was cold and dark the swim wasn’t too hard because she swam the distance twice a week during swimming training. However, Evans said the longer race is grueling, with water temperatures hovering around 57°, “when you’re in the water it just saps the energy right outta ya.”

8-year-old Lilysa was the youngest to take on the 400-yard race. Photo by Melanie Camp.

Whether in it for a serious swim or a simple splash, the event has an emotional pull for many. “I think it’s like a renewal, a rebirth. Letting go of last year and then going into the new year feeling cleansed,” said Venice local Sasha Gary.

For Van Patten’s nephew Duke, the swim is a family tradition he never misses. “No matter how crappy you feel it’s something that brings everyone together,” he told Yo! Venice.

Venice local Sasha Gary said the swim is like a rebirth. Photo by Melanie Camp.
Norky the Penguin hands out high fives. Photo by Melanie Camp.
Related Posts

Edify TV: $2 Billion Beverly Hills Development Proposed Near Westside

April 16, 2021

April 16, 2021

A developer wants to build a $2 billion condo and retail development flanking the Beverly Hilton hotel. Learn more in...

Culver City Video Game HQ Underway

April 16, 2021

April 16, 2021

Take a look at the Culver City headquarters for a $3.3 billion gaming company. Video made possible by Santa Monica...

14 Home Complex Starting at $3 Million Wraps up Near Facebook Offices

April 16, 2021

April 16, 2021

 Work wraps up at Encore development  By Chad Winthrop  Work is nearly done on 14 multi-story homes starting at $3.1...

Edify TV: Venice Handball Courts Encampment Cleared

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

Sanitation crews Thursday cleared a homeless encampment at the Venice Beach handball courts. Learn more in this video made possible...

Del Rey Dry Cleaner Goes up in Flames

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

LAFD put out first-floor fire this week By Chad Winthrop Over 90 firefighters put out a fire that broke at...

Edify TV: LAFD Announces Likely Cause of Ballona Wetlands Fire

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

The LAFD has revealed the cause of a March fire that destroyed five acres of the Ballona Wetlands. Learn more...

Pizza Pop-up Coming to Venice Next Week

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

Lupa Cotta coming to Venice’s Chez Tex next Friday By Kerry Slater A “nomadic pizza business” is popping up in...

Restaurant Spotlight: Piccolo Bringing Fine Italian Dining to Santa Monica and Venice

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

Latest restaurant from Chef Antonio Mure with two locations on Westside  By Timothy Michael An esteemed chef with deep ties...

Food Review: Griddle Cake Perfection Arrives on the Westside

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

Breakfast by Salt’s Cure lands on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica By Kerry Slater A new Westside breakfast spot serves...

Earth Day Beach Cleanup at Santa Monica Beach

April 15, 2021

April 15, 2021

Santa Monica Travel & Tourism organizing April 22 event  On Earth Day next week join a “micro-cleanup” to help beautify...

Westside Cafe Helping Save Monarch Butterflies

April 13, 2021

April 13, 2021

This Westside cafe is doing its part to keep its namesake insect, the monarch butterfly, safe. Learn more in this...

Virtual Venice Art Crawl This Week

April 13, 2021

April 13, 2021

Singers, poets, painters, photographers, performance artists and gallery owners are all scheduled to participate in the virtual Venice Art Crawl...

Junior Lifeguards Returning to Venice Beach This Summer

April 13, 2021

April 13, 2021

County-run program returns to LA County beaches July and August  By Sam Catanzaro A few weeks are left for prospective...

Beached Dolphin Near Venice: YO! Venice Show – April, 12, 2021

April 12, 2021

April 12, 2021

Local news and culture in under 5 minutes. * Beached Dolphin Near Venice Beach * Fareless rides coming to LA...

SWAT Tear Gas Trailer in Seven-Hour Venice Standoff

April 12, 2021

April 12, 2021

Standoff between police and barricaded suspect over the weekend at First Baptist Church By Sam Catanzaro  An over seven-hour standoff...