Where the Surfers Are: Spring Break in Central Florida Swell Gallery

April 27, 2017 • Swell Gallery

All words by Dick “Mez” Meseroll — Once upon a time, long, long ago it seems — especially to the average 18- to 21-year-old college student — Spring Break had a plethora of names, some of which dated back to the 1930s: “Mid-term break,” “spring vacation,” “Easter vacation,” “Easter week,” “reading week,” or my personal fave, “study week.” Study week? Yeah, riiiiiiight…

At some point — around the ’50s and ’60s — people probably figured out that not a whole lot of studying or reading or churchgoing was happening. But a whole lot of other extracurricular monkey business sure was, including lots of partying, pot smoking, and excessive all-night drinking interspersed by nursing hangovers on the beach all day (even if the hangover cure included drinking on the beach while bronzing up so you could take your sunburn/tan back with you to U Mass, UNLV, NC State, or Bum Fuck U out in the various boonie college towns that dot this great land of higher (and we do mean “higher”) education.

Many of these fun-seeking college denizens come to Florida from all four corners of the U.S. and from around the world, turning Easter vacation / Spring Break into a major youth gathering that began in earnest down in Fort Lauderdale in the early ’30s. We don’t need to go too deeply into past history, but it is a fascinating study in corporate commercialization how a single novel written by Glendon Swarthout, infamously titled “Where the Boys Are” and published in 1958 (when I was 6 years old — but I remember the movie and have seen it several times), took “study week” from a relatively low-key, un-obnoxious gathering to some of the most maniacal, ass-twerking, beer-bonging, boob-showing that would make a porn star blush.

The plot line was, basically, college girls meet college boys and have a real good time down in Fort Lauderdale, one of the grandaddies of all early Spring Break destinations along with Daytona Beach. It’s safe to say that book and ensuing movie definitely lit the fuse for those precious few weeks of scholastic down time, flooding Florida with students and good-time Charlies looking for a little fun in the sun.

Then the ’80s hit and MTV got involved, along with Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Trojan, Kotex, and a plethora of huge corpo entities that wanted into those Spring Breakers’ wallets and purses like a crackhead wants a hit. That’s when the shit reallllly hit the fan, ballooning those sleepy beachside burgs with up to 300,000 rowdy revelers hellbent on having the time of their lives, even to the point of occasionally losing one or two to the madness.

The gas thrown on the fire in the ’50s went mushroom cloud nuclear in just two decades, forcing those two towns in particular to start passing restrictive laws and requiring the minimum drinking age in Florida to be raised to 21, which drove the mongrel hordes of partying Visigoths out to other far-flung territories like Panama City Beach, Lake Havasu, and South Padre Island. Some of the hot destinations now require passports, including Cancun, Bermuda, and other exotic international locales.

By 1989, Fort Lauderdale’s Spring Break body count dropped to a much quieter and manageable 80,000 or so, more or less the same for Daytona Beach. And that’s the way we like it here in sleepy Central Florida, where Spring Break or “study week” solitude means you can actually study if you want. It might be swell maps and approaching cold fronts you’re studying, but you can hear yourself think, get a good night’s sleep, surf in relative peace (at most places), and not find a pile of puke on your board bag or a pee-stained couch from the night before’s nocturnal “festivities.”

My main point here is, if you to bypass Spring Break craziness and just have a mellow time, great weather, fun surf, college girls from Bozeman to Burlington to Chapel Hill to Ann Arbor strolling in the sand to hit on, or (for all you visiting ladies!) local, sun-tanned surfer boys to meet on the beach (maybe they’ll even teach you how to ride a wave), they are here. And you can party if you want, although there’s not much craziness going on and most of us just don’t want it here because it’s all about the ocean and beach lifestyle.

And, of course, surfing, as the following gallery culled from the last six weeks in and around Central Florida testifies.

There are plenty of other Spring Break destinations that have more booze joints, tail to chase, and puke fest parties where shouts of “show us your boobs!” are considered casual conversation. But if you like it nice and quiet — beaches, surfing, and chilling out in the warm sun and sand without all that noise and looney crowds — then Central Florida is the place to visit if you really want a break (and a few good breaking waves) to enjoy. Photo: Dugan

It’s also conducive to getting to bed early and getting up early to dawn patrol the seemingly infinite sandbar choices from New Smyrna to Jensen Beach. Photo: Nathaniel Harrington

And they don’t call Central Florida the Treasure and Space Coasts Coast for nothing and, as far as we surfers who reside here are concerned, the real gold is in them thar’ waves like this First Peak refractor nugget being plundered by Phil Watters. Photo: Dugan

Cory Lopez did his own treasure hunting a few weeks ago with brother Shea and a lucky few wave pirates, who cashed in on a deserted stretch of sandbar named Chernobyls between Spanish House and First Peak. Photo: Mez

Central Florida surfers Devon Scorr and Victoria Watson, made in the shade atop the second floor of the Sebastian Inlet State Park snack bar peanut gallery. It was one of the hottest winters on record in Florida and cold beverages and ice pops were the call between sessions. Photo: Harrington

Vero Beach’s Chris Yergens, a longtime Sebastian Inlet standout, stays cool by throwing a little shade on himself with one of his trademark under-the-lip power snaps off of First Peak. Photo: Mez

In another exclusive ESM Crossfire, veteran lensman and mag co-founder Tom Dugan mans the 300mm from the beach in this capture of Daniel Glenn while Nathaniel Harrington, at bottom left with yellow water housing… Photo: Dugan

…Nails a sick paddler’s perspective at the exact same moment in time while hoping to avoid the high-flying Glenn brother’s landing and ensuing recovery. Photo: Harrington

Top East Coast prospect Eva Woodland has been turning heads recently with solid freesurfs at Sebastian Inlet and even better competition results. Photo: Mez

Eva is legit, and here is why. Photo: Harrington

Spring break lineups in Florida are always more packed than usual, mixing silliness, fun, confusion (this photo), and a little madness (see next photo) into each frame. Photo: Mez

Trump dump. Big league… Photos: Mez

And this is a weekday surfing crowd during Spring Break! You should see the pack closer to the jetty and First and Second Peak — wall to wall for a solid mile all the way up to Spanish House. Photo: Dugan

Sebastian Inlet local Corey Howell at New Smyrna Beach maybe thinking he could escape the Spring Break crowd madness down in Brevard? Photo: Dugan

….Mmmmm, not likely. Photo: Ducer

Might as well jump — Blake Speir and Chauncey Robinson take the dry hair, no paddle route out to First Peak. Photo: Mez

Chauncey Robinson nicely emulating the legendary Tom Dugan / Kelly Slater “Tomahawk Chop” photo (selected as one of Australian Surfing Life’s top 100 surf photos ever), taken at exactly the same sandbar at Sebastian some 20 years ago. Photo: Dugan

Meanwhile, way up the beach, Chauncey’s brother Wiley Robinson whams a filthy vert. Photo: Harrington

Two over easy, Spring Break style. Photo: Mez

In town for the Ron Jon Vans Pro in Cocoa Beach, Makai Martinez headed south and showed World Tour form at Sebastian Inlet after the event finished. Photo: Mez

A man who oozes World Tour form from every pore, Cory Lopez downshifts for a split sec on a perfect Chernobyls wave and lines up the money shot to perfection. Photo: Mez

Speaking of perfection, Wiley Robinson sculpts a beautiful turn with all the form and technique you could hope to possess. Photo: Dugan

Nearshore fishing is a great way to pass the time and catch your dinner if the waves aren’t cooperating — or, better yet, do both the same day with several very accessible inlets along Central Florida’s coast, all with great surf breaks on the beaches right next to them. Photo: Mez

We don’t know what we like better about this shot — Blake Speir’s fins out bust or poppa Dave’s proud, ear-to-ear grin while paddling out the back watching his son belt a sick one. Photo: Mez

Dave Speir, still charging as hard as ever and going for broke into his 40s. Like son, like father — killing it at both ends of the age spectrum. Photo: Mez

Cory Lopez enjoying one of the best days of central Florida’s many Spring Break swells and fabulous weather at Chernobyls. Photo: Mez

California’s Kevin Schulz (left) and local photog Nathaniel Harrington (right) getting ready to clock in at the Sebastian Inlet photo studio to get some work done. Photo: Mez

Kevin Schulz is a great bloke and houseguest, and a surfer who knows how to work with photogs, which in turn makes Nathaniel Harrington’s job a lot easier in the shifting waves and sandbars at Sebastian. Kevin honed in on his mark (Nathaniel) with precision targeting and pulled off a huge 360 reverse right in front of his lens. Now that’s teamwork! Photo: Mez

Not a drop of water out of place on this Chernobyls spinner — the only thing missing was you dropping into this glassy green beauty. Photo: Mez

What is Spring Break in sunny, dreamy Florida without being able to go to the beach barefoot in just a swimsuit? Photo: Dugan

Spanish House is one of Florida’s most legendary waves, known for its ability to produce barrels on good days and also as a place of overflow refuge for those not wanting to pay $5 to get into the Inlet, then deal with huge crowds scrapping for not nearly enough waves. Mike Romano obviously made the right choice this day (check the full sequence here). Photo: Dugan

The stretch between New Smyrna and Stuart isn’t just about the prime spots you always see and hear about. There are many little county and town parks, pull overs, and “stash spots” to check for some solitude and privacy (and maybe the solo surf session with just a friend or two or your best gal on the beach snapping a few trophy photos for your Instagram page). All you got to do is bring a sense of adventure and curiosity and invest a little time. Photo: Mez

But if you don’t mind going blow for blow with a rabid pack of locals of all ages on all types of equipment, then catching world famous RC’s in Satellite Beach where the Hobgood brothers made their bones is the way to go. Forrest Johnson runs. Photo: Dugan

Larry’s Lefts at Sebastian Inlet, revealed to the world at large by East Coast Surfing Hall Of Fame photographer Larry Pope in the ’60s and ’70s, is one of the most photogenic spots you could hope for when it’s cranking. It’s also as legit of a barrel as you could hope to find in the Sunshine State. Photo: Dugan

Evan Miller laying down heavy tracks at one of the Treasure Coast’s most notorious reefs on the first day of Spring. Photo: Mark Hill

Untouched Spanish House perfection. Photo: Dugan

The Sasquatch, Pete Mendia, setting the rail for one of his trademark monster turns at Chernobyls. All we can say is that the photog (JJ Tondo) is very brave and trusting — and that Pete is just that good at getting the shot without putting the very vulnerable shooter in the emergency room. Photo: JJ Tondo

Little Tommy Coleman going extra large at Spanish House. This kid is going to be something with a few more inches of vertical growth, another 30 pounds on him, and a few more years of world travel experience. Believe it. Photo: Mez

Matthew Glenn slips into silver-green and shadow at Larry’s Lefts, Sebastian Inlet. Photo: Harrington

Spring Break is all about relaxing, having fun, and letting your hair down — or, in this case, throwing it back and laughing filled with life. Photo: Harrington

Just another tequila sunrise at sunset, Melbourne Beach, Florida. See you next Spring Break and don’t forget your sunscreen. Photo: Mez

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  • Kevin Welsh

    Nice Job Guys! Always enjoy these Photo Galleries. Especially like the one of Blake Spier Air with Dad David grinning in the background. Great Stuff! Welshy

  • Albino Pelican

    The “unidentified ripper” photo is also Wiley Robinson.