The fact that Cocoa Beach is a mere 2 hour drive from Tampa, Florida can be a life saver for me. I get a little grumpy with all the flatness as far as the eye can see, so it sooths me when I spy a little natural variation on the horizon line. This generally comes in the form of waves. If the GC (Gulf Coast) isn’t kicking it up a notch with a strong windswell or a hurricane, my best bet is to Go East, Son!
My usual stomping ground is Sebastian Inlet, and this past weekend did not disappoint. Great waves on Saturday eased the beast within so much that I put my strategic mind to work and scheduled a surfing lesson for my little Shred Betty in Cocoa Beach on Sunday.
I hit up the guys at Cocoa Beach Surf Camp, and they lined us up with a skilled instructor named Wes. The waves on Sunday had dropped in size and were perfect for a surf lesson. Wes started her out with the fundamentals, and before long she was tearing it up. You can see the Cape Canaveral Kennedy Space Center launch pads in the background just above Shred Betty.
I’ve been surfing since I was 12 years of age, so I hope it becomes a hobby of hers that we can share for a lifetime to come. Meanwhile, I watched the little man and took pictures on the Cocoa Beach Pier. Apparently Hawaiians invaded Florida at some point?
It’s not even April yet, so here is hoping for more waves to come. Then it is the summer doldrums. Dare I say hurricanes? Bring it!
As Hurricane Bertha spun a course up the Atlantic, waves along the East Coast grew in size and changed what otherwise has been a fairly flat summer in Florida. Surf reports were calling for good conditions, and with a high pressure hovering over the state, the likelihood that it would be glassy was high.
Check out my video below.
Clean, overhead waves were a welcomed sight as we pulled onto the beach at Ponce Inlet – yes, you can drive on the beach. In fact, it was the conclusion for Daytona Beach racing, and the place where land speed records were broken several times in the early 1900s. The beach has diminished in size since those early days, but it still offers enough room for the Oneill bus to get up and down it. They got out of there just in time, however, because I saw several people return to their cars at high tide only to discover their wheels had sunk in the sand and were stuck.
This is a trick in Photoshop called, “Glowing Edges:”
My friend, Tim and I are two working stiffs who spend way too much time in the office. Nevertheless, we quickly made our way out into the lineup pausing only for a moment to remark upon the surprisingly cold temperature of the water. In between waves we spotted dolphins and did our best to keep our position against the northern course of the current. Fortunately, we had a good landmark.
The Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, which was built in the late 1800s, has long served as a marker for many mariners. In fact, it was this very lighthouse that guided author Stephen Crane to shore after 30 hours at sea and was the model for the fictional lighthouse described in “The Open Boat.” 175 feet of red brick make the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse the tallest one in Florida.
There are a few distinct surf spots as you move north away from the jetty. As you might expect, the furthest break outside is along the jetty with the remaining peaks breaking progressively closer to the beach. The best time to surf Ponce is low to incoming, but any tide works. At high tide the waves tend to be mushy outside and then reform inside as shore break.
Ponce Inlet is a great spot, but be aware that it does get pretty crowded. Situated between Daytona and New Smyrna, and directly east of Orlando, means there is a fair population of people in close proximity. In my opinion, there are many lesser known breaks in Florida that are just as good. But regardless, it is always fun to check out a new place, and Ponce Inlet is definitely worth a visit when the surf is up.