All posts by David

2021 in Fernandina Surf

When I started the Wave Log I had an agenda to show myself and others that the waves are decent, even consistent around here. Starting this year I’ve made a change to the data section to make it a little more honest. Onshore vs. Offshore now has 3 sections: Onshore (all day), Mixed, and Offshore (all day). There were almost twice as many onshore days as offshore days in 2021.

Notable observations and surprises from 2021

  • Slow start. On an honest, down note there were no head high + days and only 6 chest to shoulder high days in all of January and February combined.
  • 17 second swell in June. On 6/22 if you were attending our 4th week of Summer Camp you experienced waves that originated off the coast of Brazil. A similar thing occurred during mid-June of 2017
  • Active July. Including the surf from Tropical Storm Elsa there was a 4 day run of chest high surf from 7/12 – 7/15 and a 5 day run of chest high surf from 7/24 – 7/28. Many campers had personal best rides but just as many had to summon their courage in some pretty intense situations.
  • Slow, windy August. There were no days in August with notable swell periods of 12 seconds or greater and every head high + day of waves had onshore wind for the entire day.
  • Mild New Years Eve. 2021 ended with the warmest water temps since I’ve been recording. The mean water temperature on Dec. 31 was 65.5 F compared to 58.5 F in 2020, 59.5 F in 2019, and 61.5 F in 2018.

Top 5 days of 2021 – in chronological order.

  • 6/28 – It was more of a late afternoon or evening than a “day” but Tropical Storm Danny produced a pulse of swell that kept improving all the way up to sunset. The wind and tide switched almost simultaneously and I can still remember the feeling of some of the bottom turns from that session, a rarity in June.
  • 9/8 – Day 1 of the Larry swell. With patience I was able to put together 3 memorable tube rides. Hurricane Larry felt like the first proper long track, MDR (Main Development Region) fish storm we’ve had in years. If the local winds cooperate you can get multiple days of quality surf from these systems and we were blessed with 2.
  • 9/9 – Day 2 of the Larry swell. There was a bit of morning sickness due to a moderate South wind but it didn’t take long for the wind to switch and the waves to shape up. My most memorable ride wasn’t a make, I got bounced off pretty deep in what felt like a stand-up tube. I was left wanting to study Gabriel Medina’s approach at his home beach break, Pauba, to be ready next time.
  • 11/7 – The Right Whale Festival. The weather that canceled the first day of our local Right Whale Festival and Red Bull Night Riders Saturday slowly gave way to offshore winds and clear skies on Sunday. The morning high tide was high enough to affect the consistency of exceptional waves but at daybreak I saw one of those waves like you would draw in your school notebook when you were a kid.
  • 11/22 – At just 8 seconds this was the shortest period of the “top 5” days but sometimes that just means more waves. There was a 10 AM high tide that never got too high and straight offshore wind all day. November ended up being a standout month for surf, if a bit cold.

Honorable Mentions

  • 3/3 – I always like to recognize the first standout day of the year. I was out of town but I watched the forecast develop, checked the buoy, and saw one video along with a couple photos that made me think this was it.
  • 7/15 – I pulled into a closeout barrel during the Summer Camp snack break. Because of the popular conception of surfing we often struggle to convince parents that clean barreling conditions aren’t good for their first time surfers. It was a great summer for 3rd and 4th year surfers not so much for first year.
  • 7/27 – This is where the waves started to feel comically consistent for Florida summer. I was reaching my Groundhog Day like wits end watching everyone else surf. Luckily some of our most experienced students were out and about for me to live vicariously through. This being the 2nd quality high pressure swell of the month they were starting to get really comfortable. When the swell from Larry would arrive in a month and a half they would be ready.

Peak Jellyfish encounters occurred between 8/22 – 9//3.

There were 12 head high + days with offshore wind out of a total of 37 head high + days.


1) Wave heights

Flat – Shin | Knee – Waist | Chest – Shoulder | Head +
Jan. 14 14 3 0
Feb. 1 24 3 0
Mar. 0 16 9 6
Apr. 3 23 3 1
May. 3 17 4 7
Jun. 0 24 5 1
Jul. 0 19 11 1
Aug. 0 18 7 6
Sep. 0 20 7 3
Oct. 0 22 8 1
Nov. 4 12 5 9
Dec. 8 16 5 2
2021 33 225 70 37
2020 33 224 58 51
2019 43 220 64 38
2018 35 188 116 26

2) Water Temperature

Below 50 F | Below 60 F | Below 70 F | Above 70 F | Above 80 F
Jan. 0 30 31 0 0
Feb. 0 24 28 0 0
Mar. 0 14 31 0 0
Apr. 0 0 26 4 0
May. 0 0 0 31 0
Jun. 0 0 0 30 14
Jul. 0 0 0 31 31
Aug. 0 0 0 31 31
Sept. 0 0 0 30 30
Oct. 0 0 0 31 14
Nov. 0 0 25 5 0
Dec. 0 0 31 0 0
2021 0 68 172 193 120
2020 0 48 136 230 104
2019 0 51 158 207 145
2018 12 67 166 199 141

3) Wind: Onshore vs. Offshore (Choppy vs. Clean)

Onshore (All Day) | Mixed | Offshore (All Day)
Jan. 5 12 14
Feb. 7 16 5
Mar. 13 17 1
Apr. 7 17 6
May. 11 16 4
Jun. 14 12 4
Jul. 7 20 4
Aug. 9 21 1
Sep. 10 19 1
Oct. 9 17 5
Nov. 9 16 5
Dec. 6 18 7
2021 107 201 57

4) General Wind Wave Direction

North | South | Neutral (Straight)
Jan. 13 8 10
Feb. 13 8 7
Mar. 16 11 4
Apr. 9 16 5
May. 12 17 2
Jun. 9 18 3
Jul. 3 23 5
Aug. 2 28 1
Sep. 13 10 7
Oct. 21 7 3
Nov. 26 3 1
Dec. 13 15 3
2021 150 164 51
2020 135 179 52
2019 157 141 67
2018 119 167 80

5) Swell Period in Seconds

< 8 | 8 – 11 | 12 + | 17 +
Jan. 5 11 15 0
Feb. 4 17 7 0
Mar. 3 26 2 0
Apr. 2 21 7 0
May. 8 20 3 0
Jun. 3 22 5 1
Jul. 2 26 3 0
Aug. 3 28 0 0
Sep. 1 17 12 0
Oct. 1 12 18 1
Nov. 7 11 12 0
Dec. 1 27 3 0
2021 40 238 87 2
2020 60 229 75 2
2019 93 192 80 0
2018 76 212 76 3

2020 in Fernandina Surf

When I imagine a typical day of surf in North Florida it’s probably knee to waist high with 8 to 10 second intervals. 2020 had 224 “knee to waist high” days and 229 days with swell periods ranging from 8 to 11 seconds. So even if only in this one respect 2020 was pretty normal.

Disclaimer: This data is not rigorously precise or quality controlled. This spring I was recovering from a surf related knee injury. During that time frame there were more extrapolations from buoy data than normal. There was also a period of time where the Fernandina Buoy (41112) was offline and Gray’s Reef (41008) and St. Augustine (41117) were used to fill in the gap.

Notable observations and surprises from 2020

  • Extremely mild water temps in March. There were 7 days with water temperatures in the 70’s in March. In 2018 we didn’t see 70 degree water until May. In 2019 the first day of sustained 70 degree water was April 11.
  • A cool start to June. With several North wind events the first half of June featured mostly water temperatures in the 70’s. Combine this with the fact that the water dipped back into the 70’s as early as Sept. 22 and you have almost 40 fewer days of 80 degree + water than in 2019.
  • Windy fall. There were a lot of head high + days in 2020 (51 by my Floridian standards) and half of those fell in September, October, and November. All of the head high + days in September and October featured onshore wind and only 2 of the head high + days in November had sustained periods of offshore wind. There were a lot of big days and days with offshore wind in 2020 they just didn’t line up very often. By my account only 13 of the 51 head high + days had any sustained periods of offshore wind.
  • The Jellyfish were back. This time multiple daily stings in the surf zone occurred along Fernandina’s coast from at least 8/22 through 9/6. The culprit seems to be in the Class Cubozoa and Order Chirodropida containing the box jellyfish or “sea wasp”. I give credit to any of our students who continue to surf after encounters with these. Long sleeve rashguards and leggings are the best deterrent. Most pain relief methods only have limited efficacy.
  • A record Atlantic hurricane season didn’t produce more quality surf locally. The main culprit was wind, both Paulette and Teddy followed excellent tracks to produce great surf but the arrival of the swell coincided with persistent onshore wind. Isaias and Eta produced a day each of the type of iconic surf we hope for, but aside from that if you wanted to surf you had to navigate secondary wind waves cutting across the swell from the storms.

Top 5 days of 2020 – in descending chronological order.

  • 11/12 – When Eta came across the state from the gulf as a tropical storm the midday surf was a drifty, board-breaking mess. Some time in the afternoon the wind clocked around a few degrees from S to SW and it quickly came together as the best quality surf of 2020 hands down.
  • 8/3 – The day of Isaias’ closest pass had some of the largest ridable surf of the year. Similar to the Eta swell it started off early as a nearly unridable mess and shaped up gradually throughout the day until the conditions became nearly as good as it gets here. (There was an hour of the Eta swell where the surf was as good as it gets).
  • 8/1 – Groundswell from Isaias showed up a couple days before the storm and provided some powerful, fun warm up waves for the much larger surf on 8/3.
  • 7/27 – Only 11/12 and 8/3 were obvious “Top 5” days this year. 7/27 was nowhere near the biggest surf of the year but it was the first day of our “Advanced Week” of Summer Camp (The last week of Nassau County summer vacation has had bigger waves than we’re comfortable teaching beginners in almost every year since we’ve been in business). This day offered an excellent summer swell with great winds for our students with a couple years of experience.
  • 4/13 – Similar to Eta in the way a strong South wind clocked to Southwest throughout the day. This was a classic “suck-up” swell ahead of a front and the best day of surf locally during the beach closure.

Honorable Mentions

  • 10/22 – Part of the run of surf from Hurricane Epsilon.
  • 9/23 – The wind finally got a little lighter before the swell from Hurricane Teddy faded out.
  • 9/14 – Part of the run of surf from Hurricane Paulette.
  • 4/7 – A light crowd boated, walked, and paddled in to City of Jacksonville Parks to surf during the beach closures.
  • 1/25 – This morning I saw Dylan Jenkins get a wave so good it made me want to try my knee. Caught two waves and came in, wasn’t quite up to it yet.


1) Wave heights

Flat – Shin | Knee – Waist | Chest – Shoulder | Head +
Jan. 6 12 5 8
Feb. 7 16 4 2
Mar. 5 19 7 0
Apr. 6 17 4 3
May. 2 21 4 4
Jun. 0 28 1 1
Jul. 0 25 6 0
Aug. 3 19 4 5
Sep. 0 18 4 8
Oct. 1 15 8 7
Nov. 0 12 7 11
Dec. 3 22 4 2
2020 33 224 58 51
2019 43 220 64 38
2018 35 188 116 26

2) Water Temperature

Below 50 F | Below 60 F | Below 70 F | Above 70 F | Above 80 F
Jan. 0 12 31 0 0
Feb. 0 16 29 0 0
Mar. 0 6 25 7 0
Apr. 0 0 14 16 0
May. 0 0 0 31 1
Jun. 0 0 0 30 20
Jul. 0 0 0 31 31
Aug. 0 0 0 31 31
Sept. 0 0 0 30 21
Oct. 0 0 0 31 0
Nov. 0 0 7 23 0
Dec. 0 14 31 0 0
2020 0 48 136 230 104
2019 0 51 158 207 145
2018 12 67 166 199 141

3) Wind: Onshore vs. Offshore (Choppy vs. Clean)

Onshore (All Day) | Offshore/Light (At Some Point)
Jan. 12 19
Feb. 14 15
Mar. 14 17
Apr. 6 24
May. 13 18
Jun. 5 25
Jul. 8 23
Aug. 6 25
Sep. 16 14
Oct. 17 14
Nov. 18 12
Dec. 3 28
2020 132 234
2019 158 207
2018 133 232

4) General Wind Wave Direction

North | South | Neutral (Straight)
Jan. 13 14 4
Feb. 13 12 4
Mar. 7 16 8
Apr. 10 15 5
May. 9 17 5
Jun. 7 19 4
Jul. 2 23 6
Aug. 1 29 1
Sep. 13 14 3
Oct. 22 8 1
Nov. 19 6 5
Dec. 19 6 6
2020 135 179 52
2019 157 141 67
2018 119 167 80

5) Swell Period in Seconds

< 8 | 8 – 11 | 12 + | 17 +
Jan. 9 16 6 0
Feb. 5 16 6 2
Mar. 5 19 7 0
Apr. 8 10 12 0
May. 5 17 9 0
Jun. 8 14 8 0
Jul. 5 26 0 0
Aug. 0 28 3 0
Sep. 1 16 13 0
Oct. 10 16 5 0
Nov. 2 27 1 0
Dec. 2 24 5 0
2020 60 229 75 2
2019 93 192 80 0
2018 76 212 76 3

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.

The Contradiction of Surfing Fast

During your first year or three of surfing you’ve worked so hard just to master getting down the line that you often want to stay a safe distance out in front of the whitewater to guarantee a successful ride. Often what separates beginners from more advanced surfers is speed but it wasn’t always obvious to me that surfing fast didn’t mean getting down the line from point A to point B as fast as possible.

I thought that you did cutbacks because they looked cool not because they had any sort of function in letting the wave catch back up to you. I was baffled when I heard Rob Machado say his favorite thing to do was to go as fast as possible and not even worry about doing turns.

As different as Mick Fanning’s approach to a wave is from Machado’s it is interesting to note that they both recommend going as high as possible on the wave in regard to finding speed. In Surfline’s “Generating Speed” Trick Tips he goes on to emphasize going up and down, using the whole face of the wave, and not “wiggling” in the middle. Truly fast surfing is high amplitude surfing.

For me the contradiction in how to surf fast is most obvious when it comes to executing a proper bottom turn. Waiting for an extra second during your bottom turn allows the wave to stand up more so that you can enter into a steeper more powerful part of the wave (as emphasized by Tom Whitaker at the 2:10 mark in the video below). “Waiting” in order to surf “fast” is something I never fully grasped the importance of until recently.

After watching the above videos you might be tempted to think that these surfing fundamentals are more applicable to traditional rail surfing. However Matt Meola exhibits a full mastery of waiting to surf fast in his Spindle Flip video when he wipes off speed at the beginning of the wave near the 1:50 mark or during his drawn out bottom turn at the 5:50 mark that sets up the video’s big pay off manuever.

Once you are getting to your feet and surfing down the line you’re not quite ready to work on tricks until you’ve gotten comfortable doing high amplitude surfing in the pocket/power source of the wave.

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.

Meet the Beach – Sea Turtle Nesting Season

There are seven sea turtle nests at this early stage in the 2015 nesting season. While surfing yesterday a curious juvenile sea turtle, just over a foot in length, poked his head out of the water on three separate occasions to see what I was up to. I saw another slightly larger turtle 20 minutes later. The day before in the distance I spotted a head so large I thought it must belong to a leatherback but loggerheads get quite large as well.

For a lot of people Fernandina Beach is just the right size. One might say that our seasonal nesting sea turtle population is just the right size if you want to learn a lot about sea turtles. If you go down to Melbourne, FL, in the vicinity of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge, they get so many nests that they don’t identify or mark them all ( Up here we have a dedicated group of volunteers walking the beach every morning for several months in hopes of spotting the distinctive, tractor-like trail left by a nesting female sea turtle. I used hours accumulated on turtle walks for a good portion of the service hours I needed to qualify for the Bright Futures Scholarship. Assistant principal Mary Duffy, also president of the Amelia Island Sea Turtle Watch (AISTW), was more than happy to sign off on them for me. I was determined not to miss a nest but I can’t say that I didn’t watch the occasional set wave roll through.

Last year I picked up hours waiting tables at Slider’s for some extra income. I only live about 5 or 6 blocks South of the restaurant so I walked to work and always took the beach way. More than once while walking home from a long night (the employees there earn every penny) I saw the definitive tracks of a nesting sea turtle. The night I saw a nesting leatherback was unforgettable. The turtle sunk her massive body just over halfway under the sand where you could only see the top of her shell while digging the nest cavity. As she finished covering the eggs and rose up out of the sand I was humbled by her size and the process that took her several hours from start to finish.

Even having volunteered with AISTW when I was in highschool I held on to some major misconceptions until just recently. The first being that hatching/emergence happens on the full moon. The hatching date followed by the emergence a couple days later is determined by an incubation period which varies depending on the temperature of the nest and the surrounding sand. On average the loggerhead incubation last about 55 days from the mother laying the eggs while leatherback nests go about 70 days. If you follow the nesting data at AISTW (an annual tradition for Surf Asylum) you’ll discover that they can go sooner or much later often depending on the month when the eggs were laid.

Another misconception I had was that once the baby turtles hatch there is a non-stop mad dash for the surface. I discovered after “listening” to nests (by putting my ear to a piece of paper on the ground outside of the volunteer marked nest boundaries) that a few turtles start digging and then everyone else joins in. It creates a sound similar to a breaking wave which typically lasts 20 to 40 seconds after which they rest. They rest a lot. It’s an unimaginably challenging synchronized effort and obstacles like buried trash or plant roots can complicate the baby sea turtles’ efforts. If you want to have a chance to witness an actual emergence, a remarkably fast event that some liken to a sea turtle volcano our best advice would be to join AISTW and soak up all their great local knowledge like a sponge and even then it’ll take a lot of patience and luck.

The importance of Respect for these original “locals” can’t be overstated. Things we take for granted in our daily lives become major obstacles to this ancient ritual that happens on our beaches every summer. Our moonlit beaches are generally safe and enjoyable at night but things like innocently dug holes, beach canopies and chairs left out, bright lights, traffic that sounds like the white noise created by water, unleashed pets, single use plastics, etc. complicate this ancient ritual of nature. We gained a new appreciation for the challenges facing sea turtles when we realized that the peak of nesting season often coincides with the 4th of July.

We have seen emerging hatchlings seem to head South toward the dim light of Jacksonville on the horizon before correcting East toward the ocean and a couple years ago several hatchlings from a disoriented nest met their end in the Sadler roundabout. At Surf Asylum we worry that even responsibly disposed of single use plastic as it spills out, overflows, or catches wind at various points in our waste stream (disposal routes) will end up in our waterways as the infamous jellyfish mimics. This is why we support initiatives like Fernandina’s Bag the Bag and hope for a day when every item of clothing that comes into a retail store isn’t individually wrapped in plastic. Sea turtle nesting season inspires us to make small meaningful changes in our lives and to be mindful of the effects of our choices and actions. When one observes the labor (very much on the order of human child birth) required for the nesting mother to make it far enough up the beach that her eggs are safe from the fall storms, filling a hole on the beach or carrying a canopy off the beach on a daily basis pale in comparison. Here’s to Mary Duffy, Len and Pat Kreger, and the many other dedicated volunteers with AISTW for helping us understand and care for our natural heritage.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center and Wild Amelia also do a great job of increasing sea turtle awareness.

ESA Southeast Regional Surfing Championships

Last weekend Surf Asylum had the privilege of traveling down to Melbourne, FL to see the current level of amateur competitive surfing in Florida. We wanted a benchmark, something to aspire to as we teach a new generation of surfers. Friday we got to see an in form Freida Zamba riding a quad and executing precision backhand snaps, carves, and foam climbs in somewhat weak choppy surf. She was coaching Rachel Presti, one of the event’s standout performers, on wave reading and selection. The surf picked up for Saturday and Sunday with Pete Mendia and Shea Lopez joining the line-up with the kids who will soon be following in their footsteps. Below are images from the weekend and video of the final two days of competition:

Rod Logan’s power surfing distanced him from competitors half his age and younger in his first Open Shortboard heat.

Kaleb Kirshenbaum surfed with remarkable precision in the Menehune division.

Competitors in the Girls and Junior Womens divisions had a great read on the somewhat mushy waves.

Several  Menehune (11 & under) competitors exhibited polished, mature style.

Kaleb Kirshenbaum showing commitment.

Kelton Beardall was spending a lot of time in the water in the lead up to the event and it showed. (We didn’t get his 9 point air reverse off of a wave that looked like a giant close out on film).

It took a couple tries in his heats but Charlie Current nailed this one and rode out clean.

Nick Groshell was getting a lot of extension out of his turns while managing stay over his board and complete his waves.

Freida Zamba’s protege Rachel Presti linking turns like a pro.

Autumn Cockrill showing solid, traditional rail work.

Lily Whatley spending plenty of time on the nose in the Junior Womens Longboard Final.

Ryan Conklin pulling off one of the steeper noserides in competiton.

Video of Saturday and Sunday:

Relatable Round 2 at Snapper

Round 2 of the Snapper Rocks WSL event in Queensland, Australia ran in dismal surf by “Dream Tour” standards but I’d venture to say it was halfway decent surf by Florida standards. Especially during those times of the year when we’re craving anything remotely rideable. If you’ve followed Snapper throughout the years they often have to resort to running on days with buoy readings comparable to some of our own here in Florida, like 3 ft. at 8 seconds. However, this year takes the cake for the most relatable conditions I’ve ever seen the top 34 have to contend with.

The competitors had to really want to win and channel every bit of imagination they had to see scores in some of the waves they were paddling for. You could tell that Ace Buchan wasn’t really feeling it. The surfers that felt the most at home in the conditions were the Brazilians. Owen Wright showed up for the bigger surfers on tour as well as Mick and Taj for the usual suspects. Filipe Toledo levitated over sections, showing us why everyone on tour is afraid to draw him when it’s small. The slugfest that was Round 2 Heat 7 between Kolohe Andino and Jeremy Flores was a clinic in applying power and rail work to mediocre waves.

I was captivated. Take a 2 turn combination (since we still don’t realistically see that length of ride here in Florida) from any 5 point ride or better from Round 2 of the 2015 Snapper Rocks contest and study it. It’s a perfect example of where to wait on the wave, when to compress, how to lead with your shoulders, etc.. for applying the next time our surf is waist to stomach high. Hopefully this Saturday (2/14) or Sunday (2/15).

Heat Analyzer for the 2015 WSL Snapper Rocks Pro