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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' 39.31" N, 80° 13' 59.17" W||http://broward.surfrider.org/|
|Central Florida Chapter||28° 32' 18.01" N, 81° 22' 45.25" W||http://centralflorida.surfrider.org/|
|Cocoa Beach Chapter||28° 19' 12.03" N, 80° 36' 27.18" W||http://cocoabeach.surfrider.org/|
|Emerald Coast Chapter||30° 23' 45.72" N, 86° 13' 43.80" W||http://emeraldcoast.surfrider.org/|
|First Coast Chapter||30° 17' 2.84" N, 81° 23' 46.08" W||https://firstcoast.surfrider.org/|
|Miami Chapter||25° 47' 26.35" N, 80° 7' 48.16" W||http://www.surfridermiami.org/|
|Palm Beach County Chapter||26° 49' 24.22" N, 80° 8' 19.16" W||http://www.surfriderpbc.org/|
|Sebastian Inlet Chapter||28° 10' 34.04" N, 80° 35' 24.19" W||http://sebastianinlet.surfrider.org//|
|Suncoast Chapter||27° 46' 23.00" N, 82° 38' 24.00" W||http://suncoast.surfrider.org/|
|Treasure Coast Chapter||27° 11' 51.17" N, 80° 15' 10.17" W||http://treasurecoast.surfrider.org/|
|Volusia-Flagler Chapter||29° 12' 38.93" N, 81° 1' 22.20" W||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.
You can contact the Broward County Chapter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can contact the Central Florida Chapter via email at Chair@CentralFlorida.Surfrider.org
You can contact the Cocoa Beach Chapter via email at email@example.com
The Emerald Coast Chapter was formerly the Florida Panhandle Chapter.
You can contact the Emerald Coast Chapter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit in 2004 over blocked beach access points in Ponte Vedra. The suit sought a judgment that the county was "obstructing and preventing beach access in Ponte Vedra." In March 2006 it was announced that Surfrider had prevailed in this lawsuit.
The First Coast Chapter, along with several other Surfrider Foundation chapters in Florida, are interested in establishing a comprehensive set of laws to protect citizen's access to public beaches. They have drafted a Florida Open Beaches Act that they hope to have adopted by the Florida legislature.
You can contact the First Coast Chapter via email at email@example.com
The Miami Chapter (A.K.A. South Florida Chapter) is currently active in several programs and initiatives. See http://miami.surfrider.org/programs/
See http://miami.surfrider.org/chapter-initiatives-2/ and http://miami.surfrider.org/chapter-initiatives-2/
Check out the Miami Chapter blog at http://www.surfridermiami.org/
You can contact the Miami Chapter via email at Chair@miami.surfrider.org
In February 2006, chapter chair Tom Warnke's testimony at a meeting of Lake Worth commissioners was instrumental in convincing the commissioners to reject a beach fill plan from neighboring Palm Beach that would have deposited poor quality sand on the beaches, harmed beach ecology and increased the turbidity of the ocean water. On March 3, 2009, this case became a victory for the Palm Beach chapter when Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale denied the Town of Palm Beach a Joint Coastal Permit for the Reach 8 beach fill because of the project's potential to harm environmental and recreational resources.
The subject of wastewater injection wells was covered in an interview with Surfrider activist Tom Warnke on Surfermag.com.
Recently, attention has been drawn to possible effects of the 12 MGD Delray Beach sewage outfall on an offshore reef. Harbor Branch Oceanographic has evidence that the algae taking over the reef is feeding on human sewage nitrogen, and only downstream from the outfall pipe (see the chapter's website for photos and evidence of that damage). More recently, the Palm Beach chapter and campaign partners scored a major victory when the utility board members voted to make the outfall pipe carrying the waste of Delray and Boynton Beach residents go out of regular use. Even more recently, the outfall was shut off!
In March 2011 the chapter scored a major victory in stopping a plan to build 11 breakwater segments off Singer Island. Then a plan emerged (which the chapter is fighting) to build a series of groins. Thankfully, this plan was also rejected.
You can contact the Palm Beach County Chapter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sebastian Inlet Chapter has collaborated with research scientists to perform water quality sampling of Brevard and Indian River County's premier surfing and recreation beaches. The chapter, guided by Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution marine scientist, Dr. Peter Barile, collected samples containing elevated levels of various nutrients (ammonium, nitrate-nitrite, and phosphorus). It also collected algae from beach rocks and submitted them for nitrogen isotope analysis to trace and discriminate human nitrogen sources to the beach, such as sewage and fertilizers.
These initial rounds of testing showed evidence of human sewage in the surf just 15 feet off shore that were high enough to trigger harmful algal blooms such as red tide, which have plagued the Florida coast and made people ill, according to an editorial in Florida Today. In all, seven beaches from Jetty Park at Port Canaveral to Vero Beach showed significantly elevated bacterium levels.
The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued an 83-page report that concluded that there was insufficient data to support claims by the Sebastian Inlet Chapter that high nutrient levels in Brevard County’s coastal waters are elevated from sewage released from deep injection wells, wastewater plants or cruise ships. However, the report also concluded that the county should conduct more water tests and encourage cruise ships to discharge wastewater 14 miles from Port Canaveral.
The chapter is concerned about pollution from gambling boats and cruise ships. The chapter has mounted a Gambling Boat Campaign and is encouraging residents of Brevard County to write letters to Canaveral Port Authority Port Commissioners and all Florida residents to write letters to their state representatives to force gambling boats to use the pump out services at the port and stop the gambling boats from dumping their sewage right off the Brevard County coastline.
You can contact the Sebastian Inlet Chapter via email at email@example.com
The Suncoast Chapter proudly upholds Surfrider’s mission on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Re-established in 2007, their territory expands from the marshy coastline of Citrus County to the emerald green waters of Marco Island.
Check out the Suncoast Chapter blog at http://suncoast.surfrider.org/
You can contact the Suncoast Chapter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Surfrider Foundation Treasure Coast chapter serves Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Okeechobee counties.
The Treasure Coast Chapter, aided by the Florida Sportsman communications network, area fishing and diving clubs and federal agencies, won a big victory in January 2006 when they convinced the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to require St. Lucie County to replace all of the more than 200,000 cubic yards of inferior quality sand that was used to rebuild 3.7 miles of dunes after the 2004 hurricanes.
A second issue for the new chapter is the disposal of potentially contaminated sediments from the dredging of Indian River inlet that contain toxic blue-green algae, high levels of phosphorus and other sugar industry discharges.
Some previous activity by the chapter is documented at http://surfriderfoundation.blogspot.com/2006/08/treasure-coast-chapter-plants-coastal.asp
You can contact the Treasure Coast Chapter via email at email@example.com
The Volusia Flagler Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation was founded in 2007 and spans the entire two county coastline. Anyone who appreciates the ocean and beaches is welcome to join.
View the chapter's Contact Us page if you have questions!
You can contact the Volusia-Flagler Chapter via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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