Hanging Ten Again

By: Ryan Nance

Cocoa Beach is one of the best places to surf on Florida's east coast.

In the middle of my first Florida August, I was pining for the surfing summers of my California youth. Though ten years had passed, I knew if I could find a good break, I would pick it back up in no time - just like riding a bike. Feeling that old-time urge to paddle out into the surf, duck-dive under the breakers and cut swiftly across the glassy water propelled by the building swells, I asked those-in-the-know where to hit the waves. The answer was unanimous - Cocoa Beach.

My wife and I decided to pack our surf bags and head for the Royal Mansions Resort on the coast in Cape Canaveral. They radiated cottage calm. The balcony of our cozy suite overlooked not only a pristine pool and tidy gazebo but also my ultimate end-goal, the ocean. Across a narrow band of natural vegetation and beyond the broad beach lay the vast blue Atlantic.

The sun was bright and high and the waves were up. First, we needed to channel the surfing gods and quench our bodacious appetites. Surfer friends insisted that Taco City was a must stop for many well-known local surfers and novices alike. Indeed it had that relaxed board-town vibe as we slid into a roomy booth, watching the action behind the wraparound bar. I asked our surfer-cum-server where he thought it'd be breaking best today. Without missing a beat he relayed, "The southeast swell will be a point break as it wraps around the end of the pier. It'll hollow out as it runs across the sand bar."

To suit up properly, we headed to the world-famous Ron Jon Surf Shop. I'd been to many surf shops in my younger days, but was unprepared for Ron Jon. It was a massive monument to the sport - two cavernous floors with everything from beach wear, flip-flops and home décor to racks and racks of some of the sweetest surfboards I'd ever seen.

I opted to rent a long board, hoping the size would give me the stability I lacked after so long out of the water. We walked to the beach, the long board snug under my arm, the smell of surf wax in my nose and the bright Cocoa Beach sun on our heads.

With restaurants, shops and volleyball courts vying in the fine golden sand, the Cocoa Beach pier attracted sunbathers, casual shoppers and sports enthusiasts. There was even a photo-op for visitors who couldn't surf - a fiberglass wave curling up in a perfect barrel behind a bright yellow surfboard. You could climb on and take a shooting-the-curl picture with no chance of wiping out.

After scanning the waves and trying to look like a pro, I pointed the long board, now floating in the waist-high water, toward the surf and tried to jump on and start paddling. I must have underestimated my own inertia and slid off the other side of the barreling board. A more controlled attempt got me onto the board and out to the break. From the dark swells rising out of the sun's afternoon shimmer I spotted a wave forming. A few quick strokes and I could feel the wave catching the board. I put my hands on the rails and stood up, only to immediately feel the board slip out from under me. Just like riding a bike?

A few more tries, and I managed to stand up and stay up. I eventually got the hang of control and movement, and the exquisite pleasure of zipping down the face was refreshed for me. I certainly had missed it.

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