Surfing on Florida’s Treasure Coast
By: Terry Gibson
Hawaiian, Californian and Australian surfers still scratch their heads in wonder at how Florida managed to produce Kelly Slater, the greatest surfer who ever lived, as well as disproportionate number of athletes who earned spots on the elite world tour.
Well, most of Florida’s East Coast and some places along the Gulf offer a diversity of waves that have groomed some of the sport’s finest. Plus, the surf gets really good here in the Sunshine State, more often than you’d think, especially along the Treasure Coast.
Stunning, natural Sebastian Inlet State Park is arguably the epicenter of East Coast competitive surfing. It’s where native sons including Kelly Slater, the Hobgood twins and the Lopez brothers first learned to rip in powerful waves.
On the north side of the inlet, swells reflect off the jetty and are amplified. Surfers flock to this stretch of beach because the jetty makes the waves jack up taller and thicker over the shallow sandbars, creating three or four different peaks up the beach. It’s one of the best places to watch some of the best surfers on earth in high-performance action. Watch from the beach, or from the jetty looking down over the surf.
Tip: Novice and inexperienced surfers will have more fun up the beach to the north, where the waves and crowds aren’t as heavy. Given west winds and peaky conditions, those beach breaks can be some of the best, most hollow waves in the state.
Best Conditions: Sebastian Inlet is a swell magnet. It catches swells virtually year-round from the southeast, east and northeast. The waves are best on lower tides, especially the start of the incoming tide. But it’s no fun when hard north/northeast winds create strong currents that can carry surfers into the jetty pilings. Check out Surfline’s surf cam for the current conditions, as well as wind and tide information.
Amenities: The 755-acre park offers picnic pavilions, restrooms and showers. When you’re surfed out, get refreshments at the snack bar and check out the McLarty Museum and the Sebastian Fishing Museum, which tell the histories of the kinds of bounty for which the Treasure Coast is named, and the history of its rich fishing industry.
Fort Pierce Inlet State Park also offers spectacular beauty and excellent surf. Located in Fort Pierce on the south end of North Hutchinson Island, it is also one of the most consistent and shapely surf spots on Florida’s East Coast. The surf is best when the tide is about half way in or higher, and not too far out on the falling tide. It primarily receives swells from the north/northeast. Though typically very user friendly, with lots of different peaks up and down the beach, a strong north wind/current sets up dangerous conditions that could land you in the jetty rocks.
Amenities: This 340-acre park offers picnic pavilions with grills, restrooms and showers. Once you’re surfed out, enjoy the hiking trail or go fishing from the beach or along the inlet.
South Hutchinson Island
South Hutchinson Island offers many great waves along undeveloped stretches of beach. The best spots are found from the Hutchinson Island Nuclear Power Plant southward. Walton Rocks, across from the power plant, provides powerful surf over a shallow reef. Mellower breaks are found to the south. These include Dollman Park Beachside, Waveland Beach, Jensen Beach and Stuart Public Beach. Hobe Sound Public Beach, on Jupiter Island, is a powerful reef/sandbar setup.
Walton Rocks likes an east or northeast swell, with west winds or light winds from the northwest. It breaks best on the second half of the incoming tide, and will hold large swells. Park facilities include restrooms, showers and picnic tables with grills. The beach is dog-friendly.
Dollman Park is a sandy beach break with lots of peaks up and down the beach. Waves are best when the wind is light or blowing from the west. Typically, the surf is shapeliest during the first half of the incoming tide though larger swells will break through the tide. Dollman Park offers bathrooms and showers.
Waveland Beach is a guarded beach and it breaks with the same conditions as Dollman Park.
Jensen Beach is also guarded. It offers numerous peaks up and down the beach that can vary from playful to powerful depending on the conditions. It’s one of the few spots that offer relatively shapely surf during choppy, windswell events. This remarkably maintained facility include an on-site concession stand, bathrooms, showers, picnic tables and grills.
Depending on the shifting sand banks, Stuart Public Beach holds larger swells and offers longer, more powerful waves than most other spots on South Hutchinson Island. This beautiful facility includes a guarded beach, volleyball/basketball courts and concession stand, plus bathrooms, showers and picnic tables.
Hobe Sound Public Beach includes a guarded beach on a long stretch of powerful sand bar and reef breaks. It breaks at any size, but works best on larger northeast swells with light winds and an incoming tide. Amenities include showers, bathrooms and picnic tables with grills.
Grinds: Near Sebastian, just south on Wabasso Beach, score great sandwiches at the Penny Hill Beach Imporium.
In Fort Pierce, check out Sharky’s Restaurant, across the street from the entrance to Fort Pierce Inlet State Park.
On South Hutchinson Island, Shuckers Island Beach Resort is a bar/restaurant right on the beach with a wide range of food and drink options. Spoil yourself with find dining at Pietro’s on the Ocean. The Surfside Grill and Pizzeria speaks for itself. A real treat awaits across the street from Jensen Beach at Strawberry’s Deli and Ice Cream.
Boards and Rentals
Need a custom board? In Fort Pierce, contact nearby Impact Surf Boards.