Tag Archives: Fernandina Beach

Frustrating Fall

Often when we have big surf whipped up by strong local winds I tell people there are a lot of waves, just not a lot of good waves. The same could be said about Fall 2016 in Northeast Florida. If you happened to inquire about surf lessons this fall and we told you that “there’s a lot of wind in the forecast” and that conditions would not be fun, safe, or conducive for learning during your stay you weren’t alone. In fact, with a very uncertain forecast for Hurricane Hermine we cancelled all of our Labor Day weekend surf lessons. Before that we had the swell from Hurricane Gaston arrive simultaneously with persistent onshore wind that created less than optimal surface conditions. We had at least twice as many good teaching days last fall.

The forecast track for Hurricane Matthew was much more reliable but the storm was almost always going to come in too close to produce much in the way of good surf. We at Surf Asylum evacuated Amelia Island on Wednesday to avoid traffic in anticipation of Matthew’s approaching Amelia Island Friday night. The storm needed to be several hundred miles further out to sea to create anything like the surf we saw from last year’s Hurricane Joaquin. If there is a silver lining to this season it’s that even with the constant onshore winds and the close passage of Hurricane Matthew our surfing sandbars have remained remarkably similar and intact. When the swell arrived from Hurricane Nicole, another unfortunate mix of windswell and groundswell similar to Gaston, we were still surfing the same spots at the same tides as we were before Matthew’s 20 ft. seas took out sections of both our piers.

It has even been a struggle to schedule surfs with our more advanced students who have been surfing for a year or more. If there was a succinct way for Betsy to describe the 2016 Sisters of the Sea Surf Classic it would be “challenging.” Two of our Fall 2016 First Coast District – Eastern Surfing Association contests were also held in the large choppy surf that has come to typify this season. We start Surf League early because we know the Northeast winds are coming but they usually run on weekly cycles with a few days of calm or offshore winds in between. This fall it feels like onshore winds have been blowing for weeks on end. If you’ve been surfing for a year and you’re fit and confident you can paddle out in these conditions. However, you’ll be learning a lot more about surviving than surfing as you can expect your wave counts to be quite low. It takes about 3 years of being fairly committed to the sport before you start catching many waves in choppy wind swell. I often find myself having to wait anywhere from five to fifteen minutes for a good wave in these conditions.

Fall is still the time when you are most likely to get surfing conditions that match the conventional idea of “good.” On one of the very few decent days this fall a musician from Cape Town (who had been living in Nashville, TN for two years and was in town performing at the Ritz Carlton) paddled up to me and asked “Is Florida always this good!” I had to be honest, by South Africa’s standards the surf in Florida isn’t always this good. At this late juncture we’re looking at maybe two magic days which were glassy but a bit too powerful and steep for learning. During our best fall seasons we get at least a week’s worth of such days. If you’re dedicated to improving your surfing you have to supplement your water time with the windier more chaotic days. If you’re new to the sport our best advice is to take advantage of every available summer morning (before the sea breeze picks up) to build up the paddling strength, endurance, and quickness to your feet required to enjoy the Fernandina Fall surf.

Wetsuit Season Part 2

Once you’ve decided on and purchased a wetsuit you’re going to want to take good care of it so it keeps you warm for as long as possible. There are bargain prices for children’s wetsuits but if you’re a young adult or older you should expect to pay around $200+ for a decent suit. Throughout my two decades of surf wetsuit ownership I’ve learned a lot about what not to do and I can share some of that here:

1) I put my first wetsuit on like a pair of jeans pulling it from the waist or thighs until my feet popped through the leg. The problem with this was that I carved out a trench below the calf area of my wetsuit that eventually wore through into a gaping hole. I learned to push my feet through the legs as far as I could without forcing and then stretch the material over my heel so it wouldn’t dig into the material every time I put it on. (A wet wetsuit can be a lot harder to get into than a dry one).

2) If you change out of your wetsuit or rinse it in the shower don’t use piping hot water. Luke warm is usually okay. Glue and seam tape are just as important as stitching when it comes to how warm your suit is and generally glued and taped seams weren’t designed to hold up to hot water which can melt, crack, or break them down.

3) Unless you have a really broad shouldered hanger like one for a tailored suit or one that came with your wetsuit you shouldn’t hang your wetsuit by the shoulders. I’ve actually even noticed this with rashguards but most standard plastic or metal hangers will cut through the wetsuit material over time just like my heel did. Patagonia recommends doubling your suit over and hanging it at the waist and we’ve adopted this practice for all of Surf Asylum’s wetsuits.

There are a few other things like no direct sunlight or dryers (these cause cracking), don’t leave front zip wetsuits (or any wetsuit for that matter) balled up somewhere, and try to fasten any velcro back up to its proper place when stowing your suit so the hard side of the velcro doesn’t start softening and working away at the neoprene near it.

Creating tight, proper fitting wetsuits that can hold up to being peeled off and on your body on a daily basis is a significant design challenge for the manufacturers and it’s true that in climates where you wear your wetsuit year round you’ll be lucky to get two good years out of it. However, here in Fernandina Beach, FL where you usually only need a wetsuit for less than half of the year, if you surf regularly but take really good care of your wetsuit you might be able to get four years out of it. You might be hoping for a mild winter during that fourth year though.

Wetsuit Season Part 1

Fernandina Beach, FL has some of the most dramatic seasonal shifts in air and water temperatures that I know of. I’m not saying that it get’s particularly cold, just that temps vary widely. In Southern California there is a distinct summer and winter outside but the water temps seem to hover in the 60’s (Fahrenheit) occasionally dipping into the high 50’s or rising into the low 70’s. In a typical year on Amelia Island you can experience everything from water in the low 50’s to brief foray’s into the mid 80’s. This makes it hard to keep the right temperature rated surf wax on your board. It also means that the decision of whether or not you are going to surf through those first few winters becomes a decision about whether or not you want to invest in a decent wetsuit.

This is an even bigger problem for young kids who are still growing. Wetsuits aren’t something you want to “grow into.” A wetsuit that is even just a little too big can take on cold water faster than your body can warm it up, getting flushed everytime you duckdive for instance. A properly fitting wetsuit lets in and retains a small amount of water that is then warmed by your body heat. It will cycle small amounts of water at the neck and cuffs but this should never dramatically reduce the overall temperature of the water the suit has taken in. A little too tight is better than a little loose and kids who might be spending only one season in their suits might look to participate in a hand me down cycle to surf through those early winters.

After fit one of the most important considerations is thickness. Anyone who has been surfing for more than a decade has usually experienced some level of astonishment at how flexible and light neoprene has become. Today’s 4 mm is just as stretchy as yesterdays 3mm. A suit’s thickness is recorded with two numbers, 3:2 or 4:3 for example, where the numbers are thickness in millimeters. It’s a little different for each suit but the smaller number usually represents the panels of the wetsuit that need more flexibility like the ones used in paddling. Your traditional performance wetsuit is a 3:2. However, I’ve chosen to go a little thicker (4:3) in hopes of getting away without having to wear accessories like booties, gloves or a hood. I also hope to get an extra season or two out of my suit since it feels like a little too much for all but the coldest handful of days (or weeks during the harsher winters). I will say that my first session back in the 4:3 after putting it away for the summer is a tough one even with the advances in materials.

Everyone has different tolerance levels for cold water but my general comfort is as below (Fahrenheit):

High 70’s and above – I’m skinning it
Low to Mid 70’s – Skinning it if the weather is nice, springsuit if the weather is cool.
Mid to high 60’s – Springsuit if the weather is nice, fullsuit if the weather is cool.
Low 60’s and below – Fullsuit

These are for comfortable multi hour sessions. If I know I’ll only be out for an hour I can go a little lower on everything (skin it in the high 60’s for example). The closest to realtime estimate for our shoreline water temperatures can be found at the National Data Buoy Center’s Fernandina Buoy Station 41112.

Pillars and Plateaus

One week is the blink of an eye in the experience of anyone who takes a committed interest in surfing. At Surf Asylum we’re dedicated to the long term progress of any of our students that fall in love with the sport. It took me a whole summer of going to the beach with my grandmother and sister on a daily basis to make significant progress on my used 6′ 2” Eric Arakawa “Island Classic” the first year I tried surfing. My sister on the other hand caught on almost immediately first riding a narrow, pointy foam body board and then a 6′ 3” Quiet Flight. Progress in surfing isn’t a straight line. However, if you stay in the water, you can always be gradually improving.

I’ve hit several plateaus in my surfing. The first one came after I had mastered the most basic fundamentals of surfing: getting to my feet and riding down the line. As a first generation surfer (my dad, my sister, and myself all started surfing at the same time) no one ever told me how important it was to pay close attention to the wave. This might seem obvious but as I poured through the pages of surf magazines looking at the big fans of spray and airs, I thought that I just had to get good enough and I could do the same thing on any wave. I spent years ignoring the fact that certain maneuvers required the right section on the right wave. I was surfing hard in the wrong part of the wave having never heard the word “functional” in regard to surfing. During this time I made modest progress on trips to Costa Rica or heading to South Florida, Central Florida, or the Gulf when the forecast was right. However, even as late as college I wondered what separated the surfing I was seeing in videos and magazines from my own.

Myself surfing hard in the wrong part of the wave.

My most recent plateau was partially a result of considering surfing in Florida to be all the exercise I needed. I didn’t necessarily need to hit the weight room but semi-regular yoga practice and surf-specific core and leg exercises like Taylor Knox’s SurfFit have vastly improved my speed generation and overall control on the wave. Additional core and leg strength started helping me wait out the slow parts of the wave and hold speed through maneuvers without wasted movement that throws off your rhythm and causes you to grind to a halt in some of Florida’s weaker waves.

To help me break out of any future plateaus I’ve identified 3 pillars that contribute to solid surfing.

I’ve seen good surfers that have just two of these but most great surfers have a decent mastery of all three. The Mental Pillar consists of wave awareness: how you position yourself to catch waves, how you interact with and anticipate different sections of the wave you’re riding, and it overlaps with technique when it comes to things like timing. The Physical Pillar represents your personal fitness. Good surfing requires you to build strength while maintaining agility and flexibility. The Technical Pillar includes things like how you follow through with your shoulders, getting really low at the right point in your speed generation, and overlaps with the mental aspect of surfing with things like watching the lip line (the part of the wave that is about to break) approximately 7′ in front of you.

Whenever I feel stuck from now on I’ll identify which pillar needs the most work and form a plan. Once I’ve settled on a fitness regime that keeps me where I want to be I’ll probably focus on the Technical Pillar when the waves are average and focus on the Mental Pillar when the waves get good. This all depends on the season and often all three need work, but focusing on one aspect of your surfing allows you to accomplish specific goals that you can look back on to give you the confidence it takes to surf your best.

Fernandina Beach Surf League – Fall 2015

Fernandina Beach Surf League

Surf Asylum is having a great time this summer with our surf camps, private lessons and events. We have been overwhelmed by the positive response from the community. Thank you! The main questions we field at the end of a lesson or a week of camp are, “What now?” “How do I keep surfing?” “How do I build on what I learned at camp?”

The easy answer is, spend as much time in the water as possible. However, we appreciate and respect that for families new to surfing or working parents, more water time isn’t always easy to come by. Following through with our commitment to taking surfing as seriously as more mainstream sports, Surf Asylum is excited to introduce the Fernandina Beach Surf League. FBSL gives young surfers the opportunity for weekly, focused practice. Surfers continue getting time in the ocean through the fall, building on what they learned over the summer and receive coaching to help them achieve personal surf goals.

While the FBSL initially came to fruition as a place for beginners to continue surfing, it is also a place for kids who already have experience and want to improve on things like cutbacks, snaps and executing a proper bottom turn. Advanced coaching tools like personal video review and studying top athletes are regularly employed by professional surfers. One of the goals of FBSL is to make these tools available locally to those who want to take their surfing further. The league is multidisciplinary and encourages shortboarders, longboarders and cross over athletes to participate.

For more details click here: Fernandina Beach Surf League

No Shortage of Female Surfing Role Models

Surf Asylum All Girls Surf Camp, Photo: Stephanie Nichols

While 6 young girls were refining their surfing at the 2015 Surf Asylum “Girls Week” here in Fernandina Beach the World Surf League’s top 17 women were pushing the limits of surfing at the Fiji Pro on the island of Namotu. Our girls showed up on day 1 to a swell that made the front page of surfline, learned to handle 9 – 10 foot surfboards, and contended with jellyfish stings. On the other side of the world Sally Fitzgibbons perforated her ear drum during a wipeout and continued on through three more rounds of the Women’s Fiji Pro to eventually be crowned champion. Watch the final day highlights here. (We borrowed the lunges and sumo squats for our camp’s morning stretch from a video of Sally’s pre-surf routine.)

There’s far too many to name or recognize in one blog post, but we compiled a shortlist of women surfers that we look up to both as incredible surfers and positive role models for young girls. These women represent the many ways in which any girl with enough determination can progress in the sport of surfing.

Rell Sunn – You can’t compile a list of surfing role models without mentioning Rell because women’s surfing wouldn’t be where it is without her influence. Her surfing was the epitome of grace and style, but she was also co-founder of the current women’s pro tour and spread the spirit of aloha everywhere she went.

Leah Dawson – The epitome of “girls just wanna have fun” amongst surf personalities. This video is from the perspective of her surfboard. If we’re not mistaken she’s going on her second summer (southern-hemisphere winter) in Indonesia this year. You can get a better idea of her approach to waves from this video (incredible old school bottom turn at :22)

Courtney Conlogue – Courtney is one of the hardest working, most committed competitive surfers of our time. The surfing above is some of the most playful we’ve seen from her as she’s usually the definition of power. Check out her ‘day in the life’ surfline feature here if you want to know more about her routine.

Paige Alms – You have to LOVE surfing to persevere to the point where you’re ready to attempt the recently pioneered, paddle-in tube rides at Maui’s infamous big wave surf break Jaws. The video above shows Paige’s genuine sense of accomplishment and pure joy.

Sophie Falzone – Sophie is a young, dedicated, competitive surfer from just down the road in Jacksonville. We wanted to share this fun video of one of her trips to Costa Rica so young girls learning to surf in Florida know what they can achieve in a few years if they put their minds to it. Follow along with her at sophiefalzone.com

Zack Sjuggerud

Zack Sjuggerud is a kid after our own heart. We recently got to spend a little time with him while we were down at ESA Southeast Regionals and if there was anything we walked away with, it was knowing that Zack LOVES surfing. Scratch that, Zack loves the ocean. From shortboarding to bodyboarding, with SUP and longboarding in between, he competed in every single division he could enter, earning him the Youth Iron Surfer Award. He also placed 3rd in Menehune Longboard and 2nd in Bodyboarding. We asked him for an interview to find out how he got started in surfing and what his competition strategies were.

How long have you been surfing? When did you get your first board?

I started getting interested in surfing when I was in Australia when I was about 4 or 5 years old, with my dad pushing me on flat water on his longboard. I had a great time even without waves. When we got back from Australia, we bought a 4’2″ Liquid Shredder at Surf Station. I loved it.

Who has had the biggest influence in your surfing?

This is a tough one. I do really enjoy watching all types of surfing, but I like watching older logging single fin movies like The Endless Summer. I have no doubt I have seen that movie more than 50 times. I also really enjoy watching people like Craig Anderson and sometimes try to mimic his smooth tuck knee style, haha.

Favorite post surf meal?

Any meal after surfing is amazing. The after surf munchies are awful, haha. I definitely have a craving for Barberitos more than anything after a nice long surf.

Shortboard, longboard or SUP?

I have no preference. Any time in the water is a good time, and it really depends on the conditions. I have been really into bodysurfing recently too.

Where have you traveled to surf?

Southern California, Costa Rica quite a few times, Spain, and Hawaii.

Tell us about your favorite trip.

First time in Costa Rica, we had a guy take us to a secret right point. I was only ten, so I did end up standing on the shallow reef, jumping over walls of whitewater. That got the message through that reef doesn’t feel good on your feet. I cut my foot pretty bad, but the waves were amazing so I had no choice but to keep surfing, hahaha. Definitely scored some great waves that week.

What do you consider to be the most challenging part of Regionals?

No doubt confidence and keeping cool under pressure. I know you have to surf your game, try not to fall on maneuvers and try not to surf above your abilities.

Do you find it helpful to know who your competition is before going into Regionals? How do you keep up with them?

I would say that there are advantages and disadvantages to knowing your competitor’s abilities. Pros are knowing that you are going to surf smart and catch the better waves and surf as a better contest surfer than the opponent. Cons are like I said above, nerves are a big deal. I’ve seen friends try too hard, thinking that their opponents were better surfers than they really are. I prefer to know who my competitors are to know what contest tactics you would want to use.

Do you cross-train to improve your surfing?

I don’t. I just surf to become a better surfer. I think that when you are younger, (maybe below 19 or 20) training and eating well for surfing is less important for your surfing. What’s more important is learning how to judge waves and knowing which waves to catch. As you get a bit older, fitness becomes a bigger factor in your surfing.


Where do I start? Thanks to my family for supporting my surfing and taking me other places to surf. Thanks to Sean Poynter for so much help, advice, and positive stoke over many years. Thanks to David and Betsy at Surf Asylum for your contest advice during Regionals this year. Thanks to Mike Nichols and Pedro for everything over the years. Thank you to Starboard for including me in your world. Thanks to Driftwood Surf Shop and Pipeline Surf Shop. Thanks to Barberitos… to SurfSkate… and Dummy Mount. Also thanks to all the Fernandina locals who’ve supported me and looked out for me over the years.

I’ll be proud to represent Fernandina at the Eastern Surfing Championships in Cape Hatteras, if I get to go. I hope to bring home a 1st Place trophy in longboarding back to Fernandina! Yewww!

Buying Local

Our 10'2 Rozo log can get anyone up and riding.

David and I do our best to place a priority on shopping local and starting our own business has brought that concept closer to us than ever before. We aren’t selling a locally crafted, handmade good to take home, but we are essentially trying to sell ‘local’ knowledge and greatly appreciate when people choose to use our services over the same service provided by outlets with little to no surfing experience or worse, no respect for the local surfing community.

As we were planning out our business, one of the biggest decisions was deciding what type of boards we would use for our lessons and camps. It seems that most camps use either cheap soft tops or epoxy boards, so we went to the internet to see what kind of prices we were looking at to round out our quiver. There was a little bit of sticker shock as some of these factory produced boards might be cheap to produce, but carried price tags almost equal to what we pay our respective shapers.

Local shapes ready for a day's work.

That quickly led to the realization that neither of us would ever recommend to a customer that they invest in one of these boards. Aside from their cheap construction, our concern for the environmental impact of long distance shipping and taking away work from local shapers, these boards are virtually functionless once someone has learned to pop up and ride straight into the beach. They are designed as one size fits all and therefore must simply be as buoyant as possible in order to float both children and adults. They have virtually no design elements other than length and girth. The rails are typically a flat, hard edge, essentially impossible to turn and the bottoms have no contour to speak of. (Eleven custom boards later, when I’m placing a personal order, Rozo and I spend more time talking about the bottom of my boards than any other feature.)

Surf Asylum is now proud to say that we use a mix of custom Rozo and Whisnant shapes for private surf lessons and summer camp. We know from experience with other camps and volunteer events that our boards are no less safe than soft tops or epoxy (if you’ve ever been hit with one of those boards you know what I’m talking about). We also feel that we are providing an experience to know what real surfboards, handcrafted for NE Florida conditions, feel like on a wave for our clients . We’re able to point out design features that customers might want to look for when shopping for their own board. We’re also able to let students experiment with a variety of boards in various shapes and sizes. Best of all, we built on our existing relationships by continuing to support talented local shapers and have a selection of boards filled with years of shaping experience, plus a little heart and soul.

Mac, taking one to the beach on a Whisnant funshape. Photo: Kari Kenner, GoWaxhead.com

Interested in having your own custom board shaped? Contact Rozo or Whisnant Surfboards and tell them Surf Asylum sent you.

Meet the Beach – Honeycomb Worm

Phragmatopoma caudata washed up in Fernandina Beach, Fl.

::WARNING:: This post is potentially full of incorrect information.

On the last Meet the Beach I left off promising to share what I consider the COOLEST thing I’ve ever found on a Florida beach. Here it is! I was wandering the beach one evening after a couple of days of NE winds and spotted a common whelk washed up on the shoreline. As I bent down to pick it up I noticed something I believe to be quite uncommon in this area.  A tiny worm had attached itself and built a home on the whelk. He was slowly moving in and out of his house as I picked the shell up and seemed as interested in checking me out as I was in checking him out.

Phragmatopoma caudata, peeking out of his tube.

I took a few pictures of him and then returned him to the sea with well wishes that he and his shell would find whatever habitat it was that they needed to carry on. I sent one of the pictures over to David’s sister, Emily, who’s work has led to knowing and befriending lots of biologists. She was kind enough to forward it along, but without better pictures and more information, the response that came back was more of an educated “best guess” than a “I can’t believe you found a …”

The best guess was that this little guy was a Phragmatopoma caudata, also known as Honeycomb worm from the family Sabellariid. These are the worms that make up Bathtub Reef in Stuart, Fl. They use special sensory organs around their mouth to find a suitable location to build their home and somehow, through the magic of nature, a thin mucous layer forms around them to which various small particles of minerals, diatom frustules, sponge spicules are then implanted, eventually building the honeycomb, tube like structure they call home. [floridaocean.org]

Phragmatopoma caudata, Fernandina Beach, Fl

As stated, this is a best guess at identification and I have no idea how often they are found on NE Florida area beaches, but if you ever come across one, there’s no denying how cute they are!

P.S. Honeycomb worm is the coolest thing I’ve ever come across in NE Florida, but if you’re curious as to the COOLEST, CUTEST thing I’ve ever come across anywhere, that would be micromelo undata, a species of sea snail. Their  Atlantic habitat range stretches from South America to Florida, but I spotted this guy in Puerto Rico a few months ago. He was no bigger than my pinkie nail and was hanging out on some exposed rocks at Tres Palmas.

Micromelo undata, Rincon, PR


Angie Ray


One of the first things I did upon moving to Fernandina was try to find other girls and women in the line-up. I kept hearing something about a “surfing science teacher” and finally met Angie at a local ESA contest. We never ran into each other because Angie’s looking for high performance waves on her shortboard (She got 1st place in Sage Sisters Shortboard at the 2014 Sisters of the Sea Contest) and I’m usually looking for something a little more casual for my log.  Thankfully, there are some days when we’ll end up surfing the same spot and I eventually came to know that not only is she currently ripping, but that she has been for quite some time. Anyone else ever consider Lisa Anderson competition?

I admire Angie both for her dedication and humbleness to surfing and for her willingness to work so hard at improving our community. If Angie believes in something, she gives it 110%, whether it’s directing the local ESA district, organizing a community garden group or training lifeguards in Nicaragua (instead of surfing Popoyo all day).

You grew up in California, when did you first start surfing?

I started surfing during an El Nino year around 1981-1983 in Santa Barbara, Ca. There was a lot of consistent surf and it was consistently big, very much like this past year California just experienced. Myself and my friends gained a lot of experience surfing in a very short period of time.

Do you remember your first board? First wave?

Yes, I had an old 7 ft classic single fin made in the seventies. But, pretty quickly I was sponsored by a man named John Bradberry and he made me a 5’2 twin fin! I do not remember my first wave, but amazingly I took surfing as a PE class at a very small alternative middle school. I took the class because all the cute boys were in that class. 🙂 I was afraid of the ocean, and honestly, I still am!

In the mid-eighties, you were a finalist in the West Coast Surfing Championship and the US Surfing Championship. You were also on the Channel Islands Surf Team, can you tell us about that?

Surfed in the WSA (Western Surfing Association) for many years. I eventually rode for Channel Islands Surfboards and Victory Wetsuits. I was lucky to have very supportive parents that let me go to contests all up and down the California coast. Three weekends a month we were on the road. I was on the WSA All-star team for several years and placed 2nd at the West Coast Championships and 3rd at the US Championships when I was 15. I traveled to Hawaii and Florida for United States Championships.

Kim Mearing was the Women’s World Champ in 1983, followed by Frieda Zamba from 1984 to 1986 (Zamba won again in 1988), did you ever compete against either of them?

I surfed with Kim all the time growing up because we were from the same city (Santa Barbara) and surfed the same breaks. She was not in my age division as an amateur and I think she turned pro when I was about 13-14 years old. I did surf the local pro-am competitions, like the Rincon Classic with her, and I did beat her at least once! Lisa Anderson was my true rival. She moved out to Huntington Beach, Ca. from Florida at the age of 14 or 15 and we hung out and competed against each other. She went on to become 5 time world champion! I have old surfing magazines with contest results showing that I beat her as an amateur, which I am really proud of!


You recently stepped up to be the Director for the First Coast District of the Eastern Surfing Association (Thank you!), are you excited about this position and what are your plans for this next season?

I will run the contests similar to how the district has been run in the past. We like to hold all the contests during our season of warm water and waves which is between August and November. We will have a group of 4 scheduled contests and then call a few more when the surf forecast looks good! I am super excited about this season, we have a great group of young surfers who have just joined the ESA and have really great energy! We are seeing more girls interested, and that is great. There also seems to be a lot of parents that are very supportive and I am excited to have them participate in the district operations. Surf Asylum will be helping us with some surfing workshops to help competitors be more successful. They will be held in the spring and summer, so stay tuned!

Outside of surfing you have an interest in edible gardening and are the President of a new non-profit in Fernandina, The Island Gardening Project. Tell us a little bit about how you got started with gardening and what the mission of the IGP is.

I love gardening and I also want to eat food that is natural, safe, and nutritious. I do not like to buy much food from the super markets, I mainly shop at the farmer’s market. I would like to be able to produce food for myself, family, and friends. Luckily there are many people in the community who feel the same way and are passionate about the ability of communities to be able to feed themselves. We have a great group of people in the IPG. We just started our first project at the Elm Street Community Center, where we will have a garden to share with the community.

As a lifeguard, swim coach and water safety instructor, you’re obviously passionate about safety around water. What was it like volunteering for Lifeguards Without Borders in Nicaragua last year?

It was such a great experience, and I am leaving again March 30th, 2015 for Nicaragua. We work with the Nicaraguan Red Cross by bringing them equipment, training their guards, and working with them to guard the beaches during the busiest holiday in the country.

I run the Amelia Island Lifesaving Assc. and working with Lifeguards Without Borders and The International Surf and Lifesaving Assc. has really inspired me to work towards lowering the rate of drowning in our community. Amelia Island has on average of at least one drowning a year. I recently received a grant from Lifeguards Without Borders to sponsor free swim lessons for the community this summer. The grant also covers free water safety clinics at Main Beach for tourists once a week all summer. But, my favorite part of the grant is that we will be able to sponsor a few kids who would like to be on the Stingray’s Swim Team but could not otherwise afford it.


One time you told me a story that you hadn’t done much surfing after moving to Florida and that it was your high school science students who encouraged you to get back in the water. How long had it been since you had surfed regularly? Did you find it challenging?

I did not do much surfing from the time I was 22 to about 32 years old! When I started teaching high school and talked to my students about my amateur surfing career they could not believe I was not surfing. So I jumped back in the water with them and have been surfing ever since. I got back into surfing contests and that is when I got involved with the ESA. I surfed many local contests, and a couple of Southeast Regionals, and a couple of Eastern Surfing Championships. It was a challenge to get back in good enough physical condition to enjoy surfing again. But once I did my surfing felt great and I feel like I am surfing better then ever. Staying in shape is key to surfing and staying young. Lucky, I became an ocean rescue lifeguard around the same time I started surfing again and that helped a lot.

Your daughter, Mary, is an avid surfer; do you ever offer her advice or tips on surfing?

I have helped her become comfortable in the ocean, mostly through being her junior lifeguard instructor for many years. She has decided she loves to longboard and is not interested in short boarding. I do not have much experience surfing longboards so at this point she is looking up to surfers like you Betsy! Kevin Leary has helped her a lot and other local surfers who have enjoyed watching her become a longboarder. She just had her first custom longboard made for her by ROZO and was able to paint it herself!


How has surfing influenced your life?

My love for surfing has kept me in the ocean, kept me motivated to stay in shape, and helped me have a sense of community here on the Island.