Surfing in the Sunshine State: Jacksonville, FL

One of HOKALI’s exciting surf spots on the map is Jacksonville, Florida.

Among Florida’s pro surfers, perhaps you have heard of Kelly Slater, 11-time world champion the recently crowned WSL Billabong Pipe Champion, the first stop on the 2022 world tour.

Kelly Slater hails from the Sunshine State, aka Florida, where beginners and professionals alike can enjoy great waves.

Longboard champion, Justin Quintal, is also one of Jacksonville’s greats, and can be seen cruising the beaches when he is not traveling and surfing around the world.

Surfing in Jacksonville, FL

Florida is referred to as the Sunshine State for a reason, as Florida experiences 237 days of beautiful sunny skies per year.

If you are a beginner, it is a great spot to learn to surf and to watch seasoned pros, while basking in all the surf town vibes that the city offers. In addition, there are also exciting attractions in the area that give you plenty of options as a visitor to explore and get outdoors.

To give a brief history of surfing in Jacksonville: Surfer Bruce Clellend was one of the first individuals to put Florida, and the East Coast in general, on the map; prior to, surfing had hit the west coast but had not made much buzz on the east coast of the U.S.

In the mid-1960s, Clelland joined the world tour and more people started talking about Jacksonville. Endless Summer (1966), the iconic surf movie that follows a handful of surfers around the world, stopped in Jacksonville at the time when local surfers were having a contest on the beach. The surfers hit the waves to demonstrate the art of California-style surfing.

Breaks in Jacksonville

As discussed in our “where to surf in the winter” post, Jacksonville provides the strongest surf and pumping swells in the winter season.

However, there are waves all year round and summer months are a great time for beginners to get their feet wet (literally) and get used to catching waves. The great part is that surfers can profit from great weather all year round.

Let’s get into some breaks to surf when you arrive. Remember that you can book a surf lesson in Jacksonville with a vetted professional and/or surf academy!

Atlantic Beach

Atlantic Beach is a long stretch of beach with plenty of spots to paddle out from that is beginner-friendly, waist-high to chest-high waves.

Like many spots in Jacksonville, the waves are beach breaks, meaning sand bottom, so if you wipe out and tumble you won’t risk hitting the reef and suffering injuries there.

Atlantic Beach works best at high tide, again, during the winter. There are also local surf shops in the area when you can purchase and/or rent equipment including wetsuit, surfboard, or wax.

Huguenot Park

Huguenot Park is more of an intermediate surf break that goes off in the winter and provides fun baby waves during the summer.

In addition to surfing, Huguenot Park attracts people who want to fish and camp at the beach. At this spot you can drive your car on the sand, cutting down on walking time. Park entry costs $5 cash and is open from sun-up to sundown.

Mayport Poles at Hanna Park

An intermediate to advanced spot, Mayport Poles is one of the more consistent waves in Jacksonville and popular among visitors and locals. It is a break along the pier that provides rippable waist-high surf year round and performs best at low tide when the wind direction is coming from the west.

Warning: the lineups can get very packed so be sure to be prepared, be patient, and know how to best navigate crowds.

Surfing at sunset in Jacksonville, FL

Water Temperature: What type of wetsuit should I wear?

In addition to knowing where to surf, it is important to know what kind of gear you need to have. Wetsuit requirements in Jacksonville depend on where you surf and the time of year.

Coldest times are actually during the month of February (water temp ranges from 64 to 72ºF on average), where a 3/2mm full suit is preferable.

The warmest month in Jacksonville is usually July (water temp is on average around 80ºF). It depends on your ability to withstand cold. Many surfers will still opt for a spring suit or shortie even during early summer months or heading into fall, but you will also see people in a vest and board shorts through much of the year.

Places to eat

3rd Avenue is a high frequented spot in Jacksonville. There you can find a variety of different restaurants and eateries to suit your tastes, including poke (try Salt Life Food Shack), ramen, cafe fare, brunch spots, and more up-scale dining options.

This part of town is very much alive and buzzing, catering to the beach and active lifestyle nature of its inhabitants.

Beach in Jacksonville, FL

Places to explore

If you fancy a day of exploring in addition to hitting the surf, you may also want to check out the museums, natural parks, and shopping venues in Jacksonville. You can hike at Talbot Island or check out Boneyard beach, a beach filled with salt-washed skeletons of oak and cedar trees.

Jacksonville offers a wide variety of outdoor experiences, in addition to beaches. Visit some beautiful local parks and scenic spots including Kathryn Abbey Hanna Park or Jacksonville Arboretum and Gardens. St. Johns Town Center is considered the shopping mecca of Jacksonville, completely open-air and with nearly 200 retailers. For indoor activities, you can visit Beaches Museum & History Park, MOSH (Museum of Science and History).

In summary, Jacksonville is a great locale for a short trip or an extended stay, and you are sure to score some great surfing while you are there.

With more shoreline than any other city in Florida, and the largest urban park system, you are sure to have fun and profit from all that the city has to offer.

Remember to book a surf lesson with an experienced professional coach through HOKALI and add Jacksonville to your surf trip bucket list.

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