Legend of the Surfing Santas

Surfing Santas was created six years ago when George Trosset Sr. convinced his son and daughter-in-law to go surfing with him on a chilly christmas eve. Bedecked in Santa and elf costumes, the trosset’s started what is now a citywide tradition. Today, surfing santas brings in thousands of spectators to downtown Cocoa Beach, raises money for charity, and puts a surfers’ spin on the holiday season.



How did you come up with the idea for Surfing Santas?

My mom wore a t-shirt with a Surfing Santa and my wife bought some Surfing Santa ornaments before I ever thought of it. Then In November of 2009, I saw a car commercial for Honda with daybreak surfing Santas. That Christmas Eve, my son and I went out and surfed in costumes. The only two spectators were my wife and grandson. My beard was made out of blanket. I remember how water soaked it got and I couldn’t get air in my lungs. Perfect wrong combination! I was exhausted after a few waves. But the newspaper had us on the front page on December 25th. People came up to me later and asked, what’s this Surfing Santa thing?

The second year, we wore full blown Santa suits. The soaking wet costumes were almost eighty pounds. We learned we needed red rash guards and that beards don’t work out well in the ocean.

I wasn’t looking for 300 Surfing Santas or 3,000 or 4,000 spectators. I just wanted a family day at the beach and this is what it turned into.

How did the Skydiving Santas get involved ?

In November 2012, I met a guy called named Chuck Julian. He’s a skydiving specialist and offered to sky surf into our event. In 2013, six people landed on the beach in full Santa suits. The crowd was screaming! Last year, 19 skydived.

How much have you raised for charity? 

We raised over $20,000. Grind for Life has had a donation jar and we’ve had people donate and rally around us. We sell t-shirts every year and we have a surfboard auction to raise money. The giving that comes out for this event is magical, really magical.

Where would you like to see Surfing Santa next?

I have no idea. Deerfield Beach and places across the world want to do their own event. It starts with five or ten people. I see this happening in lots of coastal communities. They’ll have fun and it will grow into people helping people. If we inspired them, so be it. I don’t want to claim that we’re responsible. I don’t want to control Surfing Santas. I just want to have fun and share what worked for us.

My vision is somebody like Zack BrownJack Johnson or Jimmy Buffet will be inspired by the event and write song about it. Maybe even perform it for us!




Dr. Duane De Freese

March’s massive algae bloom and fish kill had everyone pointing fingers.

Taxpayers blamed lawmakers, inland residents blamed coastal, and protesters with signs on State Road 520 let their voices be heard.

Experts have been working nonstop to find out more about the causes, and solutions to prevent another fish kill. One of those experts is Dr. Duane De Freese, Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon, or IRL Council. He holds a doctorate in Marine Biology and has been an avid surfer since the 70s. Obviously, De Freese knows water.

The  Indian River Lagoon Council’s territory reaches from Ponce Inlet in Volusia County all the way down to Jupiter Inlet at the north end of Palm Beach County. It covers five counties and 50 cities.

The Indian River Lagoon is long, very narrow, and relatively poorly flushed. It’s a super shallow system that is very biodiverse. De Freese pointed out that all of the things that make the lagoon special in its biodiversity also make it very vulnerable to human impact.

“I’ve seen pictures on Facebook where people are blowing leaves and grass cuttings either into the lagoon or into a storm drain. So this idea that there isn’t a role for the citizen isn’t at all true. If every citizen would do the right thing it would actually make a difference.”

Since the 70s the lagoon has been in a state of environmental flux. Projects were created to improve water quality by removing some forms of point source pollution. The community stopped pumping directly from wastewater treatment plants. Procedures were created to deal with stormwater. But no one anticipated Brevard’s enormous population boom. Rapid growth brought heavily fertilized lawns, a number of new homes with septic, and runoff that affected the groundwater.

“We doubled our population and we’re now seeing the impact.”

State of the Lagoon

After the latest algae bloom and fish kill, many residents are concerned about the state of the lagoon.

“The scale is important to consider even in the fish kill situation. We’ve got Lake Okeechobee and the impacts of the discharges down in St. Lucie River coming in at the southern. We have this fish kill and algae bloom in the northern end. But it’s a really big lagoon. There’s a lot of places in the middle where water quality is looking pretty good right now. If someone says ‘oh, the lagoon is dying,’ you almost have to ask, what segment of the lagoon are you talking about?”

The exact origin of the brown algae and the trigger for the bloom however, remains a mystery. “We know they’re fueled by nutrients but maybe there’s some environmental trigger we don’t understand.”

Contributing Factors

Currently excess nutrients are trapped in the system in the form of muck deposits. Roughly fifty, sixty years of people throwing their grass clippings and vegetation down storm water drains have collected on the lagoon bottom. “The big issue is searching for a way to remove muck and decrease that nutrient load right off the bat. But it doesn’t make any sense to remove what’s there if we’re going to just put more stuff in. It’s like pulling water from one end of the hose and adding it to the other end. It never gets dry.”

De Freese also added that we have to change the way we deliver stormwater.

“We know we need to hold water back. We need to treat it before it gets released. We need to move it into the system more naturally so it’s not a giant bulk.” The combination of leaking septic, aging sewer systems, and other factors also contributed a nutrient load that chokes lagoon life. “All of those nitrogen and phosphorus loads need to get cut. If we did that we’ll start to see the system respond favorably.”

How to Help

The lagoon is finite and eventually the system is overwhelmed. Since you can’t change population density, each person must decrease their pollutant outputs significantly to get back to that natural baseline. There’s a lot of things that the general public can do to make a difference. “We’re applying fertilizer at levels that are higher than ever because we want that green yard and lush foliage. We put more than we need and often apply it incorrectly.” Avoiding rolling, green lawns that edge up to the lagoon would be a start. “I don’t fertilize my lawn. We’re in Florida. We need to redefine what’s good landscape for a coastal community.”

De Freese also recommends bagging your grass clippings or putting them in a trash can if you live along the water. The clippings may end up in the landfill but they’ll stay out of the lagoon. Another contaminate is old or failing septic systems. Many homeowners don’t know they’re failing or getting ready to fail. “We need to improve the wastewater system so those systems don’t contribute nitrogen and phosphorous to the ground. There’s only two solutions, you’re either going to take them to an advanced septic system or we need to connect them with the city.”


De Freese named the four main components needed to move the needle toward recovery. Remove the excess nutrients, reduce nutrients we’re adding, restore and recover. The council is working in partnership with state and local governments and nonprofit organizations to better inform our citizens, remove excess nutrients, and use the best science we have to protect the system and generate funding. De Freese added that St. John’s River Management and South Water District and various state agencies and local governments are aggressively finding solutions to the problem. It may seem that nothing is happening but there’s a lot of work already underway. “By October, we’ll be administering 38 projects…But the response of the river is going to be slow.” Muck is  an important removal that requires big dredges. The dredge head hydraulically brings muck off the bottom and it’s forced through a pipe that runs a half a mile and spills it out into a spoil site. “They’re hoping to take that super high nutrient muck out of the system. We’re pretty sure that it’s that muck is fueling some of these blooms.”

There are projects that are categorized in ranges of big regional scale to smaller projects. Muck removal is considered a big scale project. “We have large stormwater conveyances like Turkey Creek, and all the watershed that drains into Turkey Creek. That can be a large project or multiple small projects.

The Cost of Ignoring the Problem

There’s a popular saying, “When you point a finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.” It’s a gentle reminder that when you point out someone’s mistakes remember you’re also highlighting your own. It’s time residents and lawmakers decide what’s important. Daily activities and choices made by millions can make or break this delicate ecosystem. The choice is ours.

Dr. Duane De Freese is the Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon Council and Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program. For more information about their mission visit itsyourlagoon.com.

By Nataleigh Palmer