State of the Beach/State Reports/FL/Surfing Areas
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Inventory and Perception of Status
Florida has surfable coastline on both the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. In total, the state has 163 well-known surf spots. The breaks are almost all beach breaks, but there is also surf off jetties, piers, and groins. Summaries of conditions along the northeast, southeast, and Gulf Coast coastlines are as follows:
There are about 350 miles of surfable coastline on Florida's Atlantic Coast. In the northeast (Nassau County to Cape Canaveral), there are 53 well-known surf spots - all beach breaks with shifting sandbars. The condition of these spots is good to fair. A few spots along this part of the coast are threatened: pollution in Jacksonville, development and fill in St. Augustine, and dredging/fill at Matanzas Inlet. Very few places still have primary/secondary dune ecosystems intact and the development between Jacksonville and St. Augustine is hurting one of the last natural areas in North Florida. Water quality issues are catching the eye of water quality districts, but the public's awareness seems to be small or nonexistent. Access is a problem in Ponte Vedra, not because there isn't access, but because there is no parking near the access points. At New Smyrna Beach Inlet, there is a concern that a pending U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' project to stabilize the inlet's navigation channel by extending the south jetty also will cut the power off at a break widely regarded as one of the best on the East Coast. More on this.
There is a greater variety of surf along the Southeast coast of Florida with some reef-type bottoms from rock shelves, coral and shell rocks, and coral reefs. From Cocoa Beach to Miami, there are 66 surf spots. They are generally in good condition, but there are threats. Specifically, "Spanish House" (near Sebastian Inlet) faces potential access problems. The park service purchased the entire area, which has been both good and bad. No development can occur at the location now, but under park control the access has been severely limited to a small parking lot. Even then, the park authorities have threatened to close down all access or at the very least charge a fee for parking. The Sebastian Inlet Chapter of Surfrider Foundation has been recognized as a proactive group, and is currently working with the park rangers to keep access open and free. At Wabasso Beach Park, over 1/4 mile of seawall has been installed north of the park to protect oceanfront homes. The building of further seawalls has been temporarily halted as a result of a lawsuit against the county by the Sea Turtle Survival League. However, all dune vegetation was destroyed by 4-wheel drive vehicles parking in the area. Heading south, the north side of Boca Raton Inlet is facing access problems from lifeguards at a private hotel. The general public is not allowed to surf in the area, but neither are hotel guests. The Palm Beach Chapter worked with local authorities to gain surfing access at the newly built Juno Beach Pier. They have also hired a water testing laboratory to test beach and sound waters for a suite of pollutants. Most of Miami-Dade County faces threats from proposed breakwaters, fill, and development. The South Florida Chapter reports that recent fill projects have severely altered the nature of the surf breaks at South Beach, Miami. Access to the surf at Dania Pier is also threatened. Increasing coastal development has the potential to restrict surfing access at South Pointe, Miami's premier break.
The waves at Cocoa Beach have been negatively affected by beach fill projects. John Hearin, Vice-Chairman of Surfrider's Cocoa Beach Chapter, has recently completed his doctoral dissertation on the effects of sand dredge-and-fill projects on Cocoa Beach’s waves. In 2001, as part of Federal reparations for the jetty extensions and port projects, Great Lakes Dredge and Dock sucked 3.1 million cubic yards of sand out of the Canaveral Shoals and discharged it onto Cocoa Beach. In 2005, Weeks Marine pulled another 1.3 million cubic yards out of the shoals. The combined cost was $29 million. FDEP standards require imported sand to “maintain the general character of the beach,” including grain size, color, and mineral composition. Hearin’s analysis found that the sand from the shoals was not a good match for the beaches. The projects also altered the slope of the seafloor and transformed Cocoa Beach from a “dissipative” surf zone (which broke at all tides) to an “intermediate-reflective” one, effectively a tidal dependent beach with a narrow surf zone and more closeouts. His study included an analysis of all the nourishment projects performed in Brevard County between 1971 and 2011.
The Gulf Coast of Florida offers approximately 44 surf spots, which are mostly beach breaks.
At Upham Beach at St. Pete Beach on Florida's west coast, a $1.5 million experimental project consisting of five T-groins made out of "geotubes" filled with sand was installed in 2005. Nicole Elko, the county's coastal coordinator, has stated that once the tubes meet their life expectancy of five to ten years, they will be replaced with permanent structures. The groins are intended to lengthen the time period between beach fill projects. The next beach fill is scheduled for 2009, during which the groins will be buried when 400 feet of width is added to the beach. The T-groins have had the unfortunate side effect of making waves reflect off of them, creating choppy conditions. Formerly, long rides were possible when winter cold fronts passed by.
Recognition by State
Florida does not widely recognize surfing as an economic, cultural, or recreational resource at the state level. There does seem to be some increased awareness of surfing, perhaps due to the ever-growing surfing population (and the fact that Florida has yielded the world professional surfing champion in multiple recent years). Despite this, it's not clear to what extent the potential loss of surfable waves as a result of a coastal deveopment or shoreline protection project would be considered in an Environmental Impact Study or similar report.
There is a level of awareness and concern about surfing areas from some county and local governments (for instance, Volusia County lists surf zones), but typically from an economic standpoint rather than an environmental one; tourism is a major part of the economy.
Florida State Parks does include surfing in an interesting document that lists the Carrying Capacity Guidelines for different activities.
Surfrider Foundation Chapters
|Broward County Chapter||26° 7' 39.3096", -80° 13' 59.1744"||http://broward.surfrider.org/|
|Central Florida Chapter||28° 32' 18.0096", -81° 22' 45.2496"||http://centralflorida.surfrider.org/|
|Cocoa Beach Chapter||28° 19' 12.0252", -80° 36' 27.1836"||http://cocoabeach.surfrider.org/|
|Emerald Coast Chapter||30° 23' 45.7152", -86° 13' 43.7952"||http://emeraldcoast.surfrider.org/|
|First Coast Chapter||30° 17' 2.8392", -81° 23' 46.0824"||https://firstcoast.surfrider.org/|
|Miami Chapter||25° 47' 26.3544", -80° 7' 48.162"||http://www.surfridermiami.org/|
|Palm Beach County Chapter||26° 49' 24.222", -80° 8' 19.158"||http://www.surfriderpbc.org/|
|Sebastian Inlet Chapter||28° 10' 34.0428", -80° 35' 24.1872"||http://sebastianinlet.surfrider.org//|
|Suncoast Chapter||27° 46' 23.0016", -82° 38' 24"||http://suncoast.surfrider.org/|
|Treasure Coast Chapter||27° 11' 51.1728", -80° 15' 10.1736"||http://treasurecoast.surfrider.org/|
|Volusia-Flagler Chapter||29° 12' 38.934", -81° 1' 22.1988"||http://volusiaflagler.surfrider.org/|
Surfrider Foundation's Florida Chapter Network consists of 11 chapters along both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts who are dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of oceans, waves and beaches. Also see their Facebook page and the chapter Website links on the chapter network website or below for additional information.
Surfrider Staff Contact
Florida Regional Manager
The summary of surfing areas comes from Surfer Magazine's The Surf Report issues for the state. Surfrider Foundation chapters were surveyed to establish surfing conditions in the state.
Other rich sources of information on surfing in Florida include the Surfrider chapter websites listed above and the following:
- Jensen Beach webcam
- Treasure Coast Surf Cams
- Volusia County
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