Forget The Sleigh, Santa Goes Scuba Diving

FLORIDA KEYS NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY ― Forget about Santa's sleigh, Jolly old Saint Nick decided to travel underwater with the fish during a visit to the Florida Keys.

Santa, portrayed by Jason Schwenke of the Florida Keys Dive Center, submerged Thursday in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo to raise money for the Florida Keys Children's Shelter.

Schwenke says Santa plans to continue diving for fundraising activities through the weekend as long as there is demand for fundraising photos and "just before returning to the North Pole to begin his toy run."

Divers had their photograph taken with Santa in exchange for a donation to the children's shelter during scuba and snorkel trips to the Keys' coral reef during the Christmas season. The dive shop is also donating a portion of profits from Santa charters to the shelter.

It's not easy being a submerged Santa, Schwenke said.

"Adding on probably 20 pounds extra when the suit is soaking wet is a bit of a challenge," he said. "But over the past couple of years we've gotten better at it and we're able to keep the pants up and the beard on."

Participating divers enjoy it as well.

"We ran into a big jolly red guy underwater and that's a bit unusual because usually there's just fish," said Eric Vandal, a visitor from Montreal. "We couldn't see any reindeer, but we got up close to Santa and took a couple of pictures on his lap."