Throwback: A Week in Florida- March 2018


I work in Florida for a couple months each winter. Sometimes I’m conflicted. Florida provides an interesting place for new adventures and new ecosystems. Rocket launches at Cape Canaveral, The Everglades, Miami, gators, bald eagles and manatees, sometimes fun waves. However, winter waves are generally much better in San Diego than south Florida.

The winter surf of 2018 was historically dismal in Southern California. The winter surf of 2018 in Florida was possibly the greatest of all time. I had been in Florida for a few weeks prior. I usually go for a dawn swim a couple times a week regardless of the conditions. 40 minute drive to Juno Pier at 5am and make it to work at 10am. But I had been watching the surf forecast when a monster purple blob began to form.

Winter Storm Riley

Winter Storm Riley moved off the coast of Massachusetts on March 2nd and went through a period of explosive development known as bombogenesis. Unfortunately, wreaking havoc across New England and beyond.  On the morning of Sunday March 3rd, 1,200 miles south, I arrived at the Juno Pier at dawn. Nonstop waves were already breaking 100 yards past the end of the pier. The swell had definitely begun and wasn’t scheduled to peak for 2 days.

Juno Pier

This swell quickly became the most impressive I have experienced anywhere. Five days of overhead to double overhead waves without a lull. It was like a 5,000 wave set bombarded the coast. Most Florida surf spots were overpowered by the immense energy as the swell peaked but a few mythological spots lit up for a select few. Winds remained light and even went offshore for extended periods. 

I bodysurfed every morning and my employers were gracious enough to give me a day off to chase this incredible swell. I didn’t have to go too far. The closest beach to my hotel is a little nondescript beachbetween the Lake Worth Pier and West Palm Beach called Phipps Ocean Park. It was firing all week! Peaky lines of neon blue swell going below sea level and exploding on the sandbars. I also swam epic Delray Beach, pumping Jupiter Inlet and all-time, incredible Reef Road.

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Tripping Fins: South Florida v2

As I’ve said previously, working in South Florida for much of the winter is ok. The weather is great, my employers are very good to me and the Atlantic Ocean is warm enough for skins (I chuckle at the locals in full suits…the water is 70° at its coldest!) However, winter is my favorite time of year in San Diego with consistent NW swells pounding the whole coast, while Florida can be ankle high for weeks at a time.

Yes, I missed some epic California swells this winter.  But I consider myself lucky because I scored numerous fun sessions in South Florida. From chest high and glassy to classic, overhead windswells with whipping onshore wind.

The level of surfing talent in the Jupiter area is very impressive. A pack of locals, old and young, ripped into the lumpy sets, connected fast sections and packed the inside slabs.

I woke up at 5 every morning with a hint of swell and drove the 45 minutes to Juno Pier. I found it larger than surrounding areas and a local guy later informed me that it is frequently larger here because there’s less shelf outside thwarting the energy of short period swells.  Many swells are combo: short groundswell from the North and even shorter local windswell. The inside sandbars are in good shape so the result is neon peaks and wedges.

There are never other bodysurfers around so there are some strange looks from the locals on the main peak as I lurked around on the inside. But after tube hunting a few sections, the skeptical looks turned to approving head nods.

Confused by the sunrise.

For years, I’ve seen most sunrises and sunsets in San Diego. It took a couple days to get used to the sun’s position in Florida. At dawn one morning, with the sun low on the brilliant horizon, my internal clock said, “The sun is setting, time to find some dinner.” It took me a second to realize that I had coffee in my hand and it was time to swim the sunrise.

After a solid swim one evening, I went on the Pier to photograph the action as the sun set. There I met longtime local surfer/photographer Bargain Bob Baggett.  He was excitedly shooting the local crew as they ripped the windswell to shreds. Bargain Bob is a super friendly and knowledgeable guy. He knew every surfer in the water and happily shared his local info, acquired from 20+ years in the Jupiter area. Turns out he even snapped a photo of me hunting for an inside barrel.

Photo: Bargain Bob Baggett


Tripping Fins: South Florida

Where are all the East Coast USA bodysurfers? Hundreds of miles of  beachbreak (albeit inconsistent) barrels. As we know from Eric’s Tripping Fins to North Carolina, there is a lot of bodysurf potential on the “Right Coast.” 

Over the past couple years, I’ve spent some time working in South Florida. Last year, I bodysurfed ankle-high waves a few times and missed the swell of the winter by about 8 hours. This year, I scored numerous fun sessions. It was never over chest high, but the water was warm and stunning turquoise. A Nor’easter moved off the coast of New England, sending north swell down the Atlantic while windswell mixed in from the south.  The end result was beautiful, blue, peaky barrels over shifting sand.

Jupiter, Florida
Jupiter, Florida
Palm Beach, Florida. In front of Mara-Lago "The Winter House." Donnie should bodysurf...would probably do him a bit of good.
Palm Beach, Florida. In front of Mar-a-Lago “The Winter House.” Donnie should bodysurf…would probably do him a bit of good.
South Beach, Miami. You can hear the party from inside the mini-barrels.
South Beach, Miami. You can hear the party from inside the mini-barrels.
Miami, Florida. Sometimes South Florida even has waves.
Miami, Florida. Sometimes South Florida even has waves.
Rocket launch from Sebastian. Maybe the only thing better than being in the barrel would be launching into space from Cape Canaveral.
Rocket launch from Sebastian. The only thing better than being in the barrel would be launching into space from Cape Canaveral.


Florida -KS