By Avery Little
The peace of paddling out into the endless blue, the exhilaration of dropping into a wave, the first unforgettable ride and if you are lucky, the way your heart skips when a dolphin takes a breath next to the board. Surfing has become a way of life for some right here in Northeast Florida and it is a sport that some experienced surfers and beginners enjoy. Our beautiful coast boasts a deep sense of connection through the culture and history of surfing. The surfing community is one of the most unique and special groups; the music, events, and people are welcoming and encouraging, eager to share waves and good times. Waves break all along our coast, but the surfing community would agree that two local surf breaks form some of the most ridable and fun waves. This article will discover these two surfing spots, including the secrets and surprises they hold.
Mayport Poles in Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park
Turning into the gate for Hanna Park in Atlantic Beach, the adrenaline in my blood always starts pumping. The gate worker, always friendly, waves me in, after paying a small park fee. My breathing calms and the drive to Lot One always makes me speechless. The trees form a tunnel over the road and wildlife welcomes you as squirrels dart across the street and birds fly overhead. Pulling into the parking lot, you will find surfers standing behind their cars, waxing their boards or cleaning up from their sessions. Chatter, laughter, and music can be heard, as you enter into a secret society of those who surf at the Mayport Poles, also known just as “The Poles”.
Here, waves can be found year-round, even when the surf forecast is poor at other beaches. Many surfers visit this break on a regular basis, therefore, surfing here can build friendships. The reason this is called, “The Poles”, is from the wooden poles in the water separating the public beach from the Naval Station Mayport. Belongings are often piled under the long boardwalk, where surfers share wax and hang their towels, preparing to surf.
This surf break is ideal for all levels of surfing expertise. Although, those that surf close to the poles are usually more experienced, especially on the crowded days. It is fun to watch advanced surfers snapping off the lip and riding down the backside. The waves continue to break further down the beach and beginners have the opportunity to surf clean waves. In between sets, surfers relax on their boards, soaking in the sun and forgetting their daily problems. Often, those who have completed their thrilling surf session can be found walking on the beach, collecting shark teeth and seashells.
One of my favorite parts of The Poles is the landscape that surrounds the ocean. Hanna Park consists of not only one and a half miles of beaches, but also has many varieties of trees, bush and grasses that sharply transform into soft sand and blue sea. This line between these forms of environment is a symbol of how our society is so closely connected with nature. The Poles is the spot to go not only for sweet swell but a beautiful landscape.
Jacksonville Beach Pier in Jacksonville Beach
Driving into Jacksonville Beach, the atmosphere shifts to a busy, exciting environment of restaurants, bars, and shops full of charm and old stories. Jacksonville Beach is a place where community is shared through events such as food trucks, festivals, and fishing. Walking onto the beach, being barefoot is encouraged and immediately, you will relax in the salty air. As you walk towards the pier, beach volleyball and families playing in the water can be seen. In this area, photographers document the twists and turns of the surfers. Fishermen watch surfers and paddleboarders from the pier as they reel in their catch of the day.
The surfing at the Jacksonville Beach Pier is exhilarating and offers consistent swell. Personally, I love this location due to my time spent here, summer after summer, working at a surf camp. This break is perfect for beginners and experts alike, as different waves are formed on either the North or South sides of the pier. The sandbar around the pier forms waves year-round. More experienced surfers will ride closer to the pier, especially on the South side, turning tricks and showing off. Beginners can still catch big sets as they learn how to ride the line or even just stand up. There is no judgement of surfing skill at the pier as everyone shares the value of peace in the ocean.
My favorite part of surfing at the Jacksonville Beach Pier is the wildlife. Due to the sandbar, during low tide, the water only goes up to your shins and you can walk through the break. As a wave is breaking in front of you, look up! Fish will shimmer as they swim though the water. Dolphins will ride the wave along side you, spraying water on surfers as they breathe through their blowholes. This experience is indescribable. If you are a morning person, I would recommend hitting the beach before the sunrise and join the Dawn Patrol. These surfers will go out before the sunrise and watch it from the water. As the sun rises in the East in Northeast Florida, the orange glow of the sun waking up reflects on the ocean. Surfing at this time is a dream and puts the mind at ease.
So, borrow a board, reach out to a local surf school, or rent a board form a local surf shop and hit the waves! No matter your experience level, how big or small the swell, and which spot you want to explore, surfing can change your life. It has mine.
About the Author
Avery Little is a senior at Stanton College Preparatory High School and will be attending the University of Florida this fall.
One Response to “Secrets of the Break: Top Two Surf Spots in Northeast Florida”
Avery you are an amazing young lady I am very proud and honored to be your uncle