Crowded Surf Spots and Thoughts on Localism

My alarm goes off on Saturday morning before the sun shows up, every Saturday morning, intentionally. Almost every Friday after work I drive over to New Smyrna Beach and stay the night at my parents beach condo. Every Friday night I’ve got the utmost intention to wake up early and dawn patrol it on Saturday morning. All week the thought of surfing a couple waves uninterrupted by the crowds run through my head, yet every Saturday morning plays out the exact same; I hit the snooze button and get up a couple hours after the sun’s already risen and sigh after seeing the mass crowds on the one itty bitty break.

You’d think I’d learn, but it hasn’t happened yet.Crowded Surfing Spots and Thoughts on Localism

I paddle out to the massive crowd, but usually a little north or south; knowing I can catch a couple waves off to the side and it’s just a matter of time before other surfers start to notice. One by one I’m joined by someone else and usually with the same intentions as me, to catch some waves and have fun. I think it’s fun trading waves back and forth. There’s at least three or four waves to a set that are just begging to be ridden and in my head that means three or four of us can get a fun ride each set. New Smyrna has A-frames meaning that the waves breaks in the center peels to the right and a left, so most waves can be ridden by two surfers when one goes left and the other goes right. It’s kind of like poetry in motion when two surfers get paddling on the peak and they agree to go opposite directions.

Then that jerk off local shows up and all hell breaks loose. If you’ve ever been surfing chances are that you’ve seen it happen. A local paddles out with a certain swagger to him, like he (or she, but usually he) owns the place. Back paddling anyone he doesn’t recognize, barking orders, making sure everyone saw his wave when nobody cares, and god forbid you call him off his wave because you have priority.

I think it might be safe to say that when we’ve surfed a spot for at least a few years and we know that break inside and out, it starts to feel like home whether we live there full time or only show up on the weekends because of work or the occasional early morning dawn patrol before work because the waves were so good. What gives us the right to be a jerk and ruin somebody’s day of surfing because they don’t look familiar or haven’t lived there as long as us?

Deep down I think we’re afraid of people invading our happy place. Take it from me, I love having my space where I can go to just be and get away and recharge my batteries for a bit. When I’m at home it’s my room, on a backpacking or climbing trip it’s my tent, and on a surf trip it’s usually a hammock. Maybe for some people their happy place is surfing at their break. Like little kids, we’re terrible at sharing our happy place. It’s mine and you damn well better not come near it without my permission.

As hard as it might be and as much as we may not want to, we might need to share our happy place with someone else at times. We’re not mind readers and we may not know when someone needs us to let them in and share our space with them.

Maybe experiences and places really are better shared with others at times. And as long as everyone’s catching waves and being respectful of each other, then there’s no reason to be pissy right?

Tribute to Sand Castles

It was later in the morning on Saturday, but still the morning nonetheless when my brother and our friend made our way down to the beach. The waves sucked and the tide was up high so we decided to go a little further north to Smyrna Dunes Park. You can’t drive on that part of the beach, instead you have to park in a parking lot and walk on a boardwalk with the blazing hot sun beating down on you before you can take a boardwalk through the mangroves that’ll drop you off on the beach right along the Intercostal Waterway.Sand Castles at Smyrna Dunes Park

We skirted the waterline until we found a slice of sand away from other people that we could call ours for a little bit. Everything got plopped down and we headed for the water to cool off. We smacked a little ball back and forth with these handmits for a little while to pass the time. That got boring and I tossed my handmit to my brother and I took over building this drizzle castle he started.

Drizzle castles are another form of sand castles, if you didn’t know. They don’t require buckets, shovels, or special tools to make them look pretty. All you need are your hands filled with wet sand from the beach and some patience to let sand dropplets plop onto the ground. When you get done building the walls, towers, and whatever else you want, you can even give it some flare with sticks and shells and other things you find on the beach. Maybe even dig a moat around it or dig a tunnel from outside the walls to the center of the muddy fortress.

Building sand castles has taken a lot of shapes and forms over the years. Different beaches host sand castle building contests throughout the year where participants spend hours making sure every speck of sand ends up in the right spot as they create elaborate life size masterpieces made of sand. Toy makers have found a way to make a buck or two out of sand castles, and even drizzle castles. Walk down the toy aisle at a big box retailer in the summer and you’ll find sand castle making supplies.

When I was younger my parents bought my brother and I some of the sand castle making supplies. They helped us become some pretty darn good general contractors when it came to making sand castles. They weren’t pro status by any means, but they helped us get our creativity flowing while having fun at the beach. We would even try to time and position it so when the tide would came up the water would only fill the moat. It took a lot of tries, but we eventually made it happen…once.

No matter how old we get or how many sand castles we build, I think (or at least I hope) we’ll always have fun building a sand castle. There’s always something new to build and a new way to build it.

…And building sand castles are one of the few forms of construction where you don’t need special permission from the city or county through the form of a building permit.

What’s Up With the Sharks this Summer

It’s that time of the year again, everyone flocks to the beach and the news crews hone in on the shark bites. It’s been happening since I was a little kid. I remember going to the beach and hearing the news broadcast trippin’ out over the latest shark bite. I’d run into the water later in the day with my boogie board and the minute some seaweed brushed against my leg I’d be walking on water, sprinting towards dry land to get away from what I thought was a man eating shark.Sharks ar New Smyrna Beach, FL

Photo: Surftweeters

Usually the sharks that call Florida’s east coast home are little juveniles. The massive attacks the news talks about are usually over embellished little nibbles on the foot from a shark making the mistake that someone’s feet are just some tasty little fish. Things are starting to change. The shark bites that have been making national news have been on a bigger scale. They’re further up the east coast in North Carolina and one shark claimed an 18 year old’s arm. Sharks are moving in from deeper waters and they’re becoming more aggressive.

What’s causing this to happen? We’re the problem. Offshore waters are becoming over fished and the sharks gotta eat, just like you and me. They follow their food in closer to the coast and have been coming in contact with humans more often. People splashing in knee deep water look like an injured fish and end up getting bit. The water’s really murky with the waves washing up in shallow water and it’s easy for a shark to make that mistake.

The summer months bring more people to the beach. With more people at the beach, the more likely someone’s going to get bit. Good news for you though, with more people in the water, the chances of you getting bit actually decrease.

Local fishing also attracts more sharks. When fishermen cast their lines into the ocean from the beach, pier, or a boat near shore, their bait’s attracting sharks. With less fish in deeper waters and more blood soaked bait, more and more sharks are being drawn closer to shore to hunt for food.

How do you prevent getting bit by a shark? The only fool proof way to not get bit by a shark is to not go in the ocean. You can’t get bit if you’re not in the water, unless Sharknado happens and sharks become some sort of amphibious creatures. I don’t think you have to worry about that though.

Last year I gave you four ways to prevent shark bites. There’s one more I need to add to the list and it’s to stay away from fishing lines. When you see someone fishing near you, just know that the blood dripping off their bait’s attracting a bunch of sharks. They can’t see well in the murky water and can easily mistake your foot or leg for that scrumptious looking piece of bait.

I’m not a marine biologist, just someone with a salt water heart that loves the ocean. I think it’s our duty to protect our oceans and I’m one of those hippies that believes when our oceans die, we die. You’re not going to find any facts here to back up my claims that big fisheries are over fishing, but this short documentary from Patagonia will provide some evidence.

International Surfing Day 2015

Saturday was International Surfing Day 2015. Like the title suggests, it’s a day that surfers set aside to go surfing, enjoy it, and maybe introduce some people to the lifestyle for the first time. Surprisingly I almost chose NOT to go surfing. Crazy right?

All the excuses rolled off my tongue while my family and I were packing up for the beach.

The waves suck

I’m tired

I don’t feel well (partly true – stupid allergies!)

I really don’t feel like dealing with the typical jerks

There’s not enough time

The sun’s beating down real hard and the UV rays are going to wreck my brand new tattoo

And so on and so forth. When my brother finally pulled the–You’re not surfing on International Surfing Day?–card, I had to give in.Surfing on International Surfing Day 2015

The sun beat down on us and within 10 seconds I was ready to get in the water. The paddle was what I was used to. Run out, take a couple strokes and I’m out past the knee high break. Unlike the last time I was surfing, in Mexico, with that dreaded 500 meter paddle out. Wave to some friends, look out on the horizon and see a clean one to two foot four wave set rolling up. I don’t even paddle battle anyone for the  smaller, first couple waves, of the set. As the rest of the set rolls through I get into position for my wave. It creeps up on me and I take a couple strokes, the wave has me in the pocket and I pop up. Instinct took over and my cross stepping feet carried me to the nose of my board and they let me hang there for a few endless seconds before the wave started to close out. They took me back to the tail just in time to kick out before the wave collapsed on me.

I paddled back out and repeated that same process over and over and over again. Occasionally sharing a wave with my brother and trying to ride tandem until he kicked the board away from me right as I was about to step on.

It’s funny how we make excuses not to do the thing we love and when we finally give in, we remember why we do what we love. We surf because it brings us peace. Climb because it helps us to operate in the moment. Read comics and books to escape reality and live in a different world for a little while. Ride bikes to feel the wind whip past us. Cook to bring joy to us, and others. The list can go on, but I think there’s times when we need to go back to the basics of things we love.

Put everything aside and just love what we do because we wouldn’t rather be doing anything else.

New Smyrna Beach: A Perfect Getaway

Alright I’ve never done this, so bare with me as I brag on one of my favorite places in the world which just so happens to be my second home (literally) New Smyrna Beach, FL. New Smyrna Beach is a quaint little surf town about an hour northeast of Orlando, FL and about 30 minutes south of iconic Daytona Beach, FL, home of the Daytona 500.

What about this little surf town makes me love it so much, let a lone entices me to write an entire blog post about it? Strap on your seat belts and let me take you on a virtual tour of New Smyrna Beach, FL.

It’s a tiny town that feels “homie.” Littered with local restaurants, coffee shops, and retail shops you start to get to know a lot of people when you’ve been there for a while. Before you know it, you’ll be walking into places and waving at people you know. Everyone gathers at the same places, so just be ready to feel at home and welcome.

The lifestyle and vibe is something that you just can’t compete with. One summer when I was living at my parents beach condo and was working as a surf instructor, I decided that I wanted to go barefoot as much as I could. I just stopped wearing shoes and sandals all together. There I was, walking the streets barefoot, went to the grocery store barefoot, picked up some stuff at the local surf shops barefoot, and no one said a word or gave me any weird stares. The only places that I’d wear shoes was into restaurants because they had the typical “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” signs plastered everywhere. Other than that, it was barefoot all the time and it was awesome!

New Smyrna Beach is filled with different outdoor adventures. You can take a quick hike through the woods. Paddle a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddle board through the mangroves. Play a round of golf or hit the beach for some fun. My favorite thing to do outside is surf. I’ve called New Smyrna Beach my home surf break for just over 15 years and evidently I made a good choice since Surfer Magazine ranked it number nine in the “best surf towns” poll in July 2009. New Smyrna Beach was also recognized as “one of the world’s top 20 surf town” by National Geographic Magazine. If you do decide to go to the beach, just keep an eye out for some curious little sharks that frequent the shores. They’re not vicious monsters like the news makes them out to be, just a little curious and I’ve yet to be bitten (knock on wood). One new outdoor activity that I’ve been trying to introduce to New Smyrna Beach is the slackline game. People have seen me set up at a few places around town and have been very intrigued. I’m hoping it’ll start to catch on in a couple years.

Believe it or not, New Smyrna Beach is actually rich in history. If you’re looking for museums, forget about it. Pick up a couple local magazines and you’ll usually find some interesting facts. For instance, years ago my mom was reading through a local magazine and came across an article about an interesting aspect to a residential road. Centuries ago when the area was being discovered, the land was a dense forest and wild game roamed the land. The son of a a rich land owner went hunting and was accidentally shot. His dad came looking for him, found his deceased son and then buried him on the spot. Fast forward a few centuries when developers were coming through, paving roads, and found this old burial spot. Instead of disrespecting the grave site and moving it, they built a road around it. Now you can see the grave site that’s been maintained in a nice subdivision as you go by looking at million dollar homes.

Let me know if you’re ever visiting New Smyrna Beach and I’d be happy to take you by there.

What really puts New Smyrna Beach at the top of my charts are the people. Super nice and always high on life kind of people. One day I was getting my Slyde handboard set up with my GoPro and a local surfer saw me and took a profound interest in what I was doing. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Local: Dude! Is that one of those handboards!?

Me: Yup.

Local: Sweet man, can I come check it out?

Me: Sure. (I mean I had no choice. He was already walking over.)

Local: Oh man that thing looks so rad. I bet you get shacked so hard in the tube every time.

Me: I’ll have to get back with you on that one. I just got it yesterday and this is going to be my first time taking out.

Local: No way! Dude that’s so sick. Bro you must be stokin’ so hard right now.

Me: I’m pretty excited.

Local: I bet! Thanks for showing me this bro. Have fun out there dude!

For those of you who don’t speak surfer, you might be thinking that he was trying to sell me drugs or could’ve been cussing me out. Quite the contrary. He was excited for me that I was trying something new out in the water. I honestly don’t know where else you can get that kind of enthusiasm in that form.

When you get tired of freezing your toosh off this winter or are looking for a great summer vacation spot, keep New Smyrna Beach at the top of your list. We’d love to show you around when you come and stay for a while.

P.S. No joke. If you do decide to make a trip to New Smyrna Beach, give me a heads up and I’d love to show you around.