It’s certainly not Hawaii or California, but Florida has some of the best breaks, not to mention some of the biggest names in surfing. Cocoa Beach, just north of Opal Collection’s Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa, is home to six-time world champion Kelly Slater and plays host to the Ron Jon Surf School.
“For the most part, it’s not as crowded here as California beaches, so swimmers and surfers are sharing the same beach – in their designated areas,” says Zack Kernan of Jupiters’s Ocean Magic Surf Shop on East Coast beaches. He suggests Florida surfing visitors investigate the Jupiter Inlet area that’s sheltered from the winds (great for spectators), but still has decent beginner waves.
“On the Gulf Coast, you have to wait for a cold front or a tropical storm,” says Riley Stanton of Old Naples Surf Shop of Florida’s west coast. Tucked-away beaches like those in Naples have a harder time catching enough of a swell for good surf, which results in large crowds that congregate in certain surf spots when there are good waves. “For us, the north side of the Naples Pier is the most common place to find surfers lined up.”
So whether the surf is calling or you’d rather be perched high enough to snap photos, check out these Florida spots.
The Atlantic Coast
Juno Pier [Juno Beach]
Right near the 990-foot pier, consistent waist-high to overhead waves draw in surfers from all over Florida. This spot, just off US Highway 1 and Juno Ocean Walk, not only is the best vantage point to capture surfers in your lens, but it’s also an all-day stop with snack bar, shaded pavilions, and tackle rentals for saltwater fishing.
Jupiter Inlet [Jupiter State Beach]
Directly east of the A1A and FL707 intersection, this easy-to-paddle-out spot has advanced, speedy waves with nice tube sections. Spectators will enjoy that the beach is sheltered from the wind and near the iconic Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, which offers historic climbing tours of the 1860 structure.
Reef Road [West Palm Beach]
Tucked behind West Palm Beach mansions, find surf with strong north swells that are not particularly hollow but fast and long. While it may be a 10 minutes from the mainland bridge to this small, secluded surf spot, the drive eases by an azure overlook of the Atlantic with no land as far as the eye can see.
The Gulf Coast
Lido Beach [Sarasota]
With more than 3,000 feet of pristine white sands, there’s room for both spectators and surfers. A shaded picnic area and playground just a short walk from the shore offers a family-friendly reprieve from the Florida sun. And the best spot to catch surfers is just south of the public beach when the tide is going out.
Venice Beach [Venice]
Midway between Tampa and Fort Meyers, find a surf spot tucked between Italian Renaissance architecture and landscaped boulevards. Just off the area’s shopping district and free parking, surfers will find clean lines of waves thanks to buffering jetties.
Sunset Beach [Treasure Island]
This residential beachfront community on the southern tip of Treasure Island hides some fast and steep breaks; nice tubes are common, but rides are usually short. Non-surfers will still find this three-mile stretch of sandy beaches inviting and the ideal place for swimming, shelling, or snorkeling offshore in search of starfish and sand dollars.