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Vintage San Diego

New Year's Day plunge


San Diego Rowing Club 1916

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On a chilly 58-degree New Year’s Day in 1916, members of the San Diego Rowing Club gathered at their boathouse in the San Diego harbor to participate in the annual New Year’s Day Plunge. The tradition began in 1900 as a christening ceremony for their first boathouse, at the foot of Fifth Avenue. The event has recurred annually for over a century to this day, and according to former SDRC president Percy A. Rooks, it is “the best cure we know for a New Year’s Day hangover.” SDRC called its original boathouse home for 79 years while the club’s membership soared, and it served as a social meeting place for businessmen and community leaders. An increase in Naval vessel traffic after World War II, however, eventually forced the club to move its headquarters to Santa Clara Point in Mission Bay. But the plunge has always taken place at its original location, now Joe’s Crab Shack.

By The Numbers

  • 1888
    San Diego Rowing Club founded (called Excelsior Rowing and Swim Club until 1891)

  • 12
    Years the club struggled to obtain its own boathouse

  • 13
    Number of SDRC founding members

  • 1892
    Inspired by SDRC, ZLAC, the oldest women’s rowing club in the nation, was formed

  • 1,200
    Average number of members in the 1930s and ’40s

  • 1934
    San Diego Bay opened up to Naval ships


Ban on women in rowing lifted as a result of decreased membership during postwar years


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