Rita Krueger, from Poughkeepsie, N. Y., sat on a white beach towel discussing the virtues of Southern California weather with her friend Susan Schwenk of Thornwood, N. Y., as they squinted at the sparkling Pacific through the hazy Laguna Beach sunshine.
"It's unreal. At home, you wake up and it's like 1 degree outside and snowing every day. For Christmas vacation, you stay inside and read books. Here you go skateboarding," said Krueger, a freshman at Indiana University. "Maybe I'm gonna transfer out here."
Schwenk and Krueger, visiting Schwenk's sister in Irvine for the holidays, were joined by several out-of-towners among an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people at Laguna Beach Friday who took advantage of the sun and surf.
Mark and Jody Langeland of Silverton, Ore., brought their daughters, Allyson, 3, and Melissa, 9 months, to the beach for a picnic.
"This is as good or better than our summer," Mark said. "When we left, the high temperature was 35 degrees. We got off the plane in Ontario with our coats on and fried."
Canadians Darlene and Laurie Tamblyn posed for snapshots on the boardwalk with their mother, Diane, and aunt, Lillian. The girls, from Toronto, had flown out to meet their parents from British Columbia.
"We left the snow back home," said Darlene, wishing she could stay longer.
Diane Tamblyn, wearing a black and white silk dress with pearls, volunteered that this was the best holiday weather to be found anywhere in the United States. "We've been to South Carolina, Florida, all over. You may get a day like this once in a while, but in those places the humidity is so bad. It's nice and dry here," she said. "And the people are so nice."
Joyce Albrecht, watching her 4-year-old son, Scott, jump in the waves in his sweatshirt and undershorts, called this "the land of non-responsibility."
"I've been coming out every Christmas for the last five years," said Albrecht, who stays with her sister in Mission Viejo when she visits from Huntington Woods, Mich. "My (ex-husband) still flies us out so (Scott) can spend Christmas with his grandparents in San Diego.
"The Laguna Cookie Factory is always my first stop. Then I put my brain on cruise for 10 days, then it's back to the snow to work my fool head off," she added.
Elsie Pouthett of Zelienople, Pa., strolled along the water's edge loaded down with shoes and jackets, while her grandchildren and son-in-law played in the shallow water. Pouthett had come to celebrate the holidays with her daughter in Upland and her other daughter, Wendy Kenny, who also came out from Pennsylvania for the first family get-together in 10 years.
Kenny stayed dry with her mother as her husband, Donald, carried their 2-year-old daughter, Rachel, through the 57-degree surf. "I came and got a big cold," she said, dabbing her nose with a tissue. "We're dairy farmers. We milk cows back home, so this is altogether different."