Catch a Wave!
Fernandina's primary spot, Main Beach. This beachbreak at the end of Main Street is known to
spit sand-bottom barrels just yards from shore. Main Beach picks up any swell, but needs light
or offshore winds and mid incoming tide.
Go south from Fernandina a few miles, and you'll see Little Talbot Island State Park just off A1A
(904-251-2320). A buck per person will get you into this secluded state park with various
sandbars spread out over a mile of beach. Best on a good, clean groundswell, Talbot amplifies
everything: size, power and barrel. It's a little sharkier than most spots, but your biggest hazard
may be the local crew, who carries a greater percentage of North Siders than Fernandina. It
works well on a low to incoming tide, but don't bother if it's choppy.
When the tide gets high, you head to the next spot south, North Jetty, which is located five miles
below Fernandina in Huguenot Memorial Park, on the north side of the St. John's river. It costs a
buck per person to park in the lot, though, and you can drive on the beach at low tide. On strong
swells, North Jetty is a long, perfect right, with an A-frame takeoff that reels into a long, rippable
wall. There are almost no lefts, but the place holds size better than most spots. North Jetty picks
up any swell, but works best when there's no wind, or when the wind has some south in it.
Northeasters are blown out.
Just on the south side of the St. John's River, inside Hanna Park, is Jacksonville's signature
surf spot, The Poles, a favorite due to its ability to turn a stormy north swell into clean, left-hand
lines. While getting there from Jacksonville Beach is simply a matter of driving north on A1A,
from Fernandina you have to take the Mayport Ferry across the St. John's River, which costs $2
per car. Once you cross, follow signs to A1A. When you get to Mayport Road, head north, toward
Mayport Naval Base. Approximately two miles down the road, you'll see Katherine Abbey Hanna
Park (904-249-4700). It costs a buck per person to enter. Once in the park, you'll see two
parking areas filled with a million other surfers. Stash the car, follow the boardwalk to the beach
and you're at The Poles. Actually, take a few steps to the north and you're on the Mayport Naval
Base, which sometimes closes the break in times of high security, but such incidents are rare.
Mayport is a long stretch of beach and breaks on all conditions; however, it's a favorite spot for
north winds. The beach curves outward toward the Mayport Inlet's South Jetty, which is about a
quarter-mile to the north and can turn a raging northeaster into a clean swell. It breaks best on
low tide coming in. It holds a big surge, is usually thicker and more powerful than the other
breaks and has very deep, makable barrels. Furthermore, there's little localism or bad vibes,
partly because there are just too many people to regulate and partly because there are usually
just enough peaks to go around. Plus, the break can take care of itself on the good days, and
you'll often see the beach lined with disgruntled novices who couldn't make it out. Fortunately,
Mayport's a pretty cool spot to hang out, with showers, camping, bike trails, canoeing and more
than its fair share of the local surfing populace.
Jax Beach Pier
Moving south from Mayport, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach are filled with various sand
breaks at the end of every access, and the new Jax pier is located in North Jax Beach several
blocks north of Beach Blvd. (The old one was destroyed by a hurricane.)
The Jax Beach Pier is the area's high-tide break, and there are various peaks off of the pier that
spread everyone out a bit, which is good, since this is one of North Florida's most aggressive
lineups. In fact, novices might want to hit one of the nameless breaks back toward Atlantic
Beach. If you've got the cajones, though, and the ability to back them up, Jax has lefts and rights
and works on all swells and conditions. It's also a summertime beach epicenter, where people
cruise for chicks and good times. Don't let the landside vibe fool you: the water is not the
happening place to be seen.
Ponte Vedra is a very secluded 10-mile stretch of coast just south of Jax Beach. Mostly
shorebreaks, this area works best on a south swell with high tide. There seems to be more
sharks in this area, probably because there are less people in the water -- pick your poison.
Unfortunately, access is difficult, but there are a few places to surf, beginning with Crossroads
to the south.
Located at the end of Mickler's Road, Crossroads used to be a semi-localized break in Ponte
Vedra. Two years ago, you parked in the dirt on the side of the road and had to walk over some
dunes to get to the break. Unfortunately, they built a huge public parking lot a few years ago, and
a large walkway access to the break, complete with restrooms and a shower. What used to be a
local gathering place in P.V. is now just another spot with easy access. In the summer and fall,
crowds are insane, with tons of inland surfers from Orange Park and Mandarin taking the back
roads into P.V. and heading straight to Crossroads.
The break shifts every few years from an outside, low-tide break to an inside, high-tide break,
depending on the frequency of storms and the severity of northeasters and hurricanes. For
years, Crossroads was predominantly known for its crazy shorebreak barrels. By the summer of
1998, after the parking lot construction and several hurricanes, the shorebreak stopped
working, and it became a low- to mid-tide break when under head-high. Even now, the inside
rarely works unless there is a significant swell showing. The local consensus is that
Crossroads is usually slightly bigger than most other spots in P.V., but not necessarily better.
As stated before, the individual surf communities of North Florida stick to their own, and
somewhere between Ponte Vedra and South Ponte Vedra -- a distance of maybe 10 miles -- the
Jax crew gives way to the Auggie crew. Not that they all live in St. Augustine. As the closest
beach to Gainesville's University of Florida, a large population of traveling surfers strike east to
take on the city's main breaks, such as Anastasia Beach Park's trio: The Entrance, Middles, and
Blowhole. There are a few less-popular spots on the perimeter that are worth checking, as well.
Moving southward along A1A from Crossroads, the first break within regular striking distance of
the St. Auggie crew is Gate Station. Named for the gas station that stands guard there, the surf
is nothing special; it's more popular as a convenient place to park and grab a drink after a
session. Still, it breaks when everywhere else is breaking, so give her a gander on the way to
Vilano and St. Augustine's better breaks.
Sometimes, decent waves can be found between Gate Station and Vilano Beach, so it's worth
stopping for a peek on the way toward St. Auggie. In general, all of this North Beach area is
good on hurricane swells and northeasters, as it handles large swells well, maybe even better
than most places to the south. On the down side, when the waves are small, North Beach is
The exception, of course, is Vilano Beach, located approximately 100 yards north of St.
Augustine Inlet. The wave has been called St. Augustine's answer to Sebastian. It's not as
consistent, can be smaller than its counterpart and is even more fickle, but, over the years, this
has been one of North Florida's most powerful breaks. During a south swell, it comes forth from
the deep-dredged outwater of the Inlet, hits the shifty sandbars and jacks. Bowls and wedges
make for pitching tubes, sometimes just 10 feet off the beach.
Get ready for coquina sand in your baggies, as the wave dumps and spits you out right on the
sand. No wonder it's become a skimboarder's heaven, even on small days. The downside of
this break? It only works on high tide, as the water needs to get over the outside sandbars, it
can't handle a big swell and is so unpredictable that you want to call a local before you even
consider taking the drive.
Vilano is also noteworthy for being the first of the North Florida spots to let cars on the beach.
You can park on the beach for free in the winter, but in the summer they'll charge you three
bucks. Or you can always park outside, near the Fiddler's Green restaurant, and walk in.
Down the beach, about a mile north from The Entrance, is Blowhole. Named in the late '60s for
its spitting, left-hand tubes, this is St. Augustine's most famous spot. It works on any swell, but
on a south to east, it's usually a foot bigger here than anywhere in North Florida. It can have
hollow lefts and long, up-the-beach rights. Obviously, this is where the pack swarms, so act
accordingly. Colder winter weekday mornings are the least crowded.
On a north swell, Middles breaks like Blowhole, but in reverse. It can also be a foot or two bigger
than anywhere else. The big difference between Blowhole and Middles (other than their
swell-direction workings) is that Middles is more of a defined peak. However, it is also more
localized, so you don't want to sit on the main break and piss off the locals. They will hassle you.
One more spot can be found past Middles just south of St. Augustine Inlet, but you need
four-wheel drive, as it only breaks at high tide. The rangers give tickets to anyone driving too
close to the dunes, and you may have to in order to get out. A few locals are in court at the time
of this writing asking the judge to be lenient -- this is not recommended.
The very first break you'll hit is The Entrance -- no need to tell you why it's called that. On most
days, you'll find Alexander Morton and his entourage of groms surfing here instead of pedaling
their banana-seaters south all the way to Blowhole or Middles. Zander, as he is known, is the
first cousin of Jacksonville pro Asher Nolan, and is following right in his footsteps. As a surf
spot, The Entrance is usually littered with tourists and campers. You have to shoot through the
crowd on weekends and sunny days, so try to score an overcast session. Ironically, there's a
longstanding no-surfing law for this area, but it is rarely enforced; a ranger may get on his horn
and move the surfers down.
There are a few spots outside of Anastasia for those seeking refuge from the pack. Go back out
of the park and to the south on A1A, and pick up Business A1A, which will take you along the
beach. Near the Howard Johnson's is a small jetty. FA is the name of the break, and it's mostly
a right off the rocks on south swells. It's more of a beachbreak, but on some souths the right
peels perfectly, especially on larger swells. FA is a great surf check spot, as the parking lot
extends out over the ocean. You're right over the middle sandbar at high tide, and the view of
surfers out front is unique. From FA, you can see the St. Augustine Pier to the right just a few
hundred yards. It's a low tide-only break now. At high tide, the backwash from the boardwalk
slops up the wave. Bottom: sand, rocks in close to the beach
Moving south of FA and the Saint Augustine pier, you'll pass 16th Street. Keep going (16 blocks)
to A Street. Consistently crowded, A Street breaks on even the smallest days. Park at the
entrance to the street and don't worry about the crowds here. Just paddle out, as everyone
accepts the madness. It's usually mellow in the lineup, and the wave is a fun, long ride. It's a
rolling wave that's good on all tides, but higher tides may be better. Bottom: Sand
Ocean Trace Road is the only decent break you'll come across as you head south, until you get
all the way down to Matanzas Inlet, about 10 miles away. The north and south sides both break
well, but the best spot is smack in the middle of the Inlet. The problem is, it's shark infested.
Several surfers have been attacked here. You're in the middle of nowhere, so it's usually not
crowded, but it can be. And no matter the numbers, beware of the locals, who are more likely to
bite than the sharks. Keep in mind that Matanzas is relatively isolated. Plan on either staying
back in St. Augustine or further south, toward Daytona. Bottom: Sand