Penguin Club New Year’s Day Swim (and a Shot at a Crown)

© 2009 FabianLewkowicz.comMost people ring in the New Year with champagne and a late night. But a group of dedicated “Penguins” choose to commemorate it with a cold dip in the ocean.

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.

Southern California Aquatics (SCAQ), a Masters swim club, now runs the event. 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. The swim is dedicated to her as well.

This event has no entry charge, and snacks and hot drinks are provided courtesy of the Sidewalk Café. Commemorative T-shirts are available for $10. Sign up at Venice Beach at 11:00 am. The Penguin Swim begins at noon.

We at SCAQ invite you to tune up for this event at a free Swim 101 workout, where a professional coach will look at your stroke and teach you how to train in your pool. For advanced swimmers there are intermediate and advanced options. Find a practice near you on our website: RSVP at [email protected].


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1 Comment

  1. Grrreat that there will finally be another Penguin Swim: Last year, I organized a private one @ the traditional location (just North of the Venice Breakwater) an we are are all looking forward to do it all over again with a much bigger crowd this New Year’s Day 2023, A.J.

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