Florida is a worthy surf destination for surfers of all skill levels. The Florida coastline has natural beauty, warm water, and a wide variety of excellent surf spots that are ride-able throughout the year.
Florida has dozens of surf spots along its Gulf and Atlantic coastlines. Most waves break over sandbanks. Florida’s Gulf Coast surf spots depend on cyclone swells that arrive in summer and autumn. The Atlantic coast receives swell in the cyclone season, as well as northwest groundswells in winter.
Florida has a diversity of excellent surf spots that work on different swell and wind directions. Here is some essential information to help you get the most from your Florida surf sessions.
What Do You Need To Know About Surfing In Florida?
Florida is one of the main epicenters of surfing on the US East Coast. The state is on a large peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and has over 2000 miles of stunning coastline.
The Atlantic Coast is the most popular area for surfing in Florida because it gets the most consistent, high-quality waves. The Gulf Coast can also be excellent for surfing but is not as popular as the Atlantic side because the waves are generally smaller and less consistent.
Florida has two main swell seasons. Winter brings massive northwest groundswells from the Atlantic Ocean. The summer and autumn months experience easterly wind swells generated by tropical Atlantic hurricanes.
Winter groundswells hit the Atlantic Coast and create the largest waves in the Florida surf calendar. Cyclone swells hit both sides of the Florida Peninsula. Waves on the Gulf Coast are at their best with hurricane swells.
Depending on the surf spot and the time of year, you can find everything from gentle, one-foot rollers to powerful, six-foot-plus barrels. Most surf spots in Florida are beginner-friendly throughout the year. There are plenty of surf spots for advanced surfers during large hurricanes and groundswells.
The variety and quality of Florida’s waves result in crowded line-ups at many of the best surf spots. In most cases, however, there are enough waves and enough room in the line-up, so it’s easy to score your fair share of waves.
Florida is great for beginner surfers but it can still be a hazardous surf destination. It’s crucial to be vigilant of rip currents along the beaches, as these currents are the primary cause of ocean-related fatalities along the Florida Coast.
The abundant marine life in Floridian waters supports a healthy shark population. While shark attacks are more common in Florida than many other surf destinations in the world, very few of these human-shark encounters are lethal. Nonetheless, caution is advised to minimize the chances for shark encounters in Florida’s line-ups.
When Is The Best Time To Surf In Florida?
Florida has ride-able waves year-round. Beginners can find suitable waves to ride at Florida’s mellow beach breaks almost any day of the year. Nonetheless, there are two primary well seasons in Florida.
The largest, most powerful waves in Florida come from northwest groundswells arriving on the east of Florida in the winter months from November to March. These swells are generated by low-pressure storm systems in the North Atlantic Ocean. Wind direction varies in winter but mostly blows from the north.
Hurricanes moving across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to the Caribbean produce large southeasterly wind-swells in Florida from June to November, peaking between August and October. These hurricane swells hit both sides of the Florida peninsula. Most surf spots on the Gulf Coast are at their best on hurricane swells.
Florida’s weather in winter is slightly cooler and drier than in summer when the weather becomes hotter and more humid. In additional to seasonal variations, north Florida is generally a few degrees cooler than southern Florida throughout the year.
The water is pleasantly warm all year in Florida, averaging around 75F. However, water temperatures vary from the northern to southern ends of the peninsula. On the north coast, average water temperatures in winter are about 56F, compared with average summer temperatures of 86F in the waters off the south coast.
During the winter groundswell season, surfers generally concentrate their attention on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. The line-ups at many of the best surf spots get crowded. The highest-quality surf spots on the Gulf Coast are most crowded in the hurricane season.
Now it’s time to have a brief look at some of the best surf spots in Florida. We’ll start on the Gulf Coast.
St. Andrew’s Beach (Panama City)
Panama City is near the northwestern corner of Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s one of the best places to surf in the area and has a 27-mile beach with several excellent surf spots. Perhaps the most popular spot is at St. Andrew’s Beach, which is at the mouth of Saint Andrew Bay.
St. Andrew’s Beach is a long, thin beach backed by small, steep dunes. It has a hollow, left-hand beach-break next to the jetty on the west side of the entrance to Saint Andrew Bay. There are also fun peaks with lefts and rights that break a few hundred yards west along the beach.
St Andrew’s Beach mostly has one to two-foot, beginner-friendly waves. However, St Andrew’s produces solid, barreling four to five-foot waves on southeast hurricane swells and northerly offshore winds.
Twin Piers (Bradenton)
About midway along the Gulf Coast of Florida is Twin Piers, an excellent and very popular surf spot in the city of Bradenton on the south shore of Tampa Bay. Twin Piers is at Cortez Beach Beach, which is on a razor-thin strip of land separated from the city and mainland by a small bay.
There are three small piers on Cortez Beach, but the best waves typically break between the north and central piers. Twin Piers is small on most days. There are ride-able waves on most swell and wind directions, making this an ideal place for novices surfers.
During hurricane swells, Twin Piers gets four to six-foot waves and strong semi-offshore winds. In these conditions, Twin Piers produce fast, hollow barrels. The line-up at Twin Piers regularly gets crowded due to the accessibility, consistency, and quality of the waves here.
Venice Beach is roughly 25 miles south of Bradenton and Twin Piers. The beach is one of the most well-known places to surf on Florida’s Gulf Coast, and the area has a vibrant surf culture.
The two prime surf spots in Venice Beach are North Jetty Beach and South Jetty Beach. These beaches are separated by two jetties and a narrow waterway leading into Lyons Bay. North Jetty and South Jetty are consistent and usually have at least one to three-foot waves with most swell directions.
North Jetty is a short, wedging left-hand wave that breaks along the northern side of the jetty. Due to its orientation, this surf spot works on southwest hurricane swells in summer. The waves at North Jetty are generally large than the waves at South Jetty.
South Jetty is across the waterway, on the other side of the second jetty. It’s is a longer, right-hand wave that breaks about 200 yards south of the jetty. South Jetty is best in winter when it receives swell from the northwest, resulting in fast, hollow, three to five-foot waves.
Now let’s move across to the Atlantic Coast, about midway up the Florida Peninsula to the legendary Florida surf spot called Sebastian Inlet.
Located at the mouth of the Indian River Lagoon in the city of Sebastian (just south of Orlando), Sebastian Inlet has been a hotbed of high-performance Floridian surfing since the 1960s. It produces some of the best waves and surfers in the state.
Sebastian Inlet is a beach break with fast, powerful waves that pitch over shallow sandbanks. The highest-quality surf zone is First Peak, a wedging right that runs next to the fishing pier. First Peak used to have better waves before pier repairs in the early 2000s disrupted the movement of sand.
Despite this unfortunate change, First Peak still provides excellent waves! There are make-able barrels on take-off, followed by short, steep, rippable walls running into the shore-break. First Peak is super-fun even when it’s one to two-foot, and gets epic, solid barrels when the swell gets between three and six-foot.
Sebastian Inlet also has several peaks further up the beach. The waves here aren’t wedge-shaped like First Peak because they are unaffected by swell refraction from the pier. Nevertheless, the waves breaking along the beach can get just as good as First Peak, with shallow, hollow barrels and fast, steep walls.
Sebastian Inlet is a consistent surf spot that receives both wind-swells and ground-swells. It can be super-fun on almost any swell and wind direction but generally has the largest and best quality waves with westerly offshore winds and northeast swells in winter.
Cocoa Beach is another famous Florida surf city roughly 25 miles north along the Atlantic Coast from Sebastian Inlet, and about six miles south of Cape Canaveral. The beach is on a thin strip of land between the Banana River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.
Cocoa Beach is a mellower beach break than Sebastian Inlet and generally has small, gentle waves that are popular with beginners and long-boarders. The prime surf spot is at the pier, where the waves are well-protected from strong winds.
Most surfers ride the north side of the pier, which usually has the most consistent and clean surf on Cocoa Beach. There are also fun waves to the south of the pier, and the line-up tends to be less crowded.
Cocoa Beach usually has ride-able waves in any wind and swell conditions. However, the ideal swell for Cocoa Beach is from the southeast, and the beach is offshore when the wind is blowing from the west.
Ponce Inlet is a famed beach break in the city of New Smyrna, about 40 miles north of Cocoa Beach and about five miles south of Daytona Beach. Ponce Inlet is known for its consistent, high-quality waves, and is one of the most famous surf spots in Florida.
Ponce Inlet’s principal surf zone is in front of the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, on the north side of a long rock jetty. The swell refraction of the jetty creates super-fun, hollow, wedging rights that break about 200 yards from the beach. The jetty is the most crowded section of Ponce Inlet.
Ponce Inlet also has seemingly-endless peaks as you move north along the beach. Here you can score rippable rights and lefts with sparsely crowded line-ups. The first peaks also benefit slightly from the northerly swell refraction created by the jetty.
There are rideable waves almost every day at Ponce Inlet. It fires on southeast wind-swells in summer. Ponce Inlet also works on northeast ground-swells in the winter months. The ideal offshore winds are from the southwest.
Daytona Beach is just north of Ponce Inlet along the sandy shoreline and is known as The Most Famous Beach in the World. There are several surf spots in Daytona Beach, with most being well-suited for beginner surfers. Let’s look at Sunglow Pier and Main Street Pier, two of the favorite surf spots in Daytona.
Sunglow Pier is on the southern end of Daytona Beach. There are respectable-quality waves on both sides of the pier, though the south is generally more consistent. Sunglow Pier offers long rides from the outside sandbanks.
Sunglow Pier usually has small, beginner-friendly waves ranging between one to two-foot, especially in summer. However, this spot produces solid three to five-foot waves with hollow barrels on southeast hurricane swells or large winter groundswells.
Main Street Pier
The beach break at Main Street Pier is the most accessible, beginner-friendly, and crowded surf spot in Daytona. Main Street Pier mostly has gentle, knee-high mush-burgers, but it occasionally produces fun, rippable waves.
The north side of the pier has a wedging right-hand wave with occasional barrels on large swells. There are also a few peaks further north along the beach. The south side of the pier has fun lefts and rights and the waves are generally more mellow than the north side.
While Main Street Pier has small waves throughout the year, this classic Daytona surf spot gets surprisingly good sometimes. On big northerly winter groundswells and southeasterly hurricane swells, Main Street Pier gets three to five-foot waves that are fast and hollow.
Anastasia Park Beach (St. Augustine)
Anastasia State Park Beach is an excellent place for surfing. The beach offers some of the best, most consistent waves in Florida. It’s just outside the city of St. Augustine, on a quiet, beautiful stretch of coastline about 30 miles north of Daytona Beach.
The quality of the waves at Anastasia Park Beach has deteriorated somewhat since sand-dredging negatively affected the sandbanks. Despite this, the beach still gets consistent waves that range from fun to epic! There are fun peaks along the whole beach, and the waves are fast and hollow when conditions are ideal.
The prime surf spot is at the northern end of Anastasia Park beach, just before St. Augustine Inlet. It’s a long, left-hand wave that breaks close to the beach and resembles a point-break. Like the rest of the beach, this spot works well from two to five feet.
Easterly ground-swells and wind-swells (ideally from the northeast) produce the most firing waves at Anastasia Park Beach, and winds from the general westerly direction provide finely-groomed offshore lines along the beach.
Florida is one of the best places to surf on the US East Coast. There are dozens of surf spots with beginner-friendly waves throughout the year. Florida also has much to offer advanced surfers when ground-swells and hurricane swell create powerful, barreling waves at the prime surf breaks.