CAPITOLA -- In most areas of the world, Santa Claus shows up in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.
The jolly old fellow bucked that tradition Saturday in Santa Cruz County, opting to arrive in an outrigger canoe flanked by reindeer paddling surfboards.
Santa was swarmed by several hundred children and their parents as the canoe glided ashore to Capitola Beach.
"I think it's really cool," said 10-year-old Jaclyn Brudzinski of Orinda. "I like Christmas and how he brings the presents to all the little kids. I'm trying to take a picture with him."
Surfing Santa, as he's known, is an event organized by the Capitola-Soquel Chamber of Commerce for the past 22 years, always taking place the Saturday after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season.
After landing at the beach, Santa made his way up the sand followed by a sea of fans vying to shake his hand and take a picture.
Santa -- with a big white beard and wig, and wearing a black wetsuit with a red and white Hawaiian shirt over it -- settled into a beach chair where he welcomed kids onto his knee for photos.
Of course, he also listened to their wish lists.
Santa told the crowd he would stay on the beach as long as necessary to ensure each child got a chance to visit with him.
The line for Santa was long, though some parents who had been through the drill in years past arrived early to stake their place at the front.
Soquel resident Kathleen Chasey was the first in line, something she did as a treat for her 7-year-old daughter.
"I love the tradition; I love that it's different," Chasey said. "It feels like a real local event. Definitely only in Santa Cruz."
Julie Longmire of Pleasanton has been taking her children, ages 8 and 5, to see the Surfing Santa for six years.
She sat in a beach chair near the front of the line an hour before Santa was due.
"To me, it's the tradition of it," Longmire said. "Our kids come with their cousins and we usually take our Christmas picture.
"I think they think this is how everyone sees Santa -- at the beach."
Cherie Beuse, a former Capitola resident, brought her 7-year-old grandson Travis to meet old Nick.
Travis was anxious to tell Santa about all the toys he had been eyeing for Christmas.
"It's something to do while you're in Santa Cruz," Beuse said. "You don't always get to see the Surfing Santa. It's not something you can just see anywhere."
Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom