Chronicling Covid: How Photog Mike Vuocolo Is Spending His Winter Vacation

April 3, 2020 • Photo Portfolio, Photos

Photos And Story By Mike Vuocolo @mikesshoreshots

Winter started simple enough. Catch late fall and early winter swells in Jersey, spend the holidays with 

Mom, the children, grandchildren and friends and then bolt to central Florida until spring arrives. 

Splitting the year between two of the hotbeds of Right Coast talent has become our norm the past few 

years.

 A sandbar break at the end of our street, close proximity to everything between Cocoa Beach and 

Sebastian Inlet and the abundance of wildlife and scenery creates a photographic playground for me to 

try out some new glass and create spectacular images.

We have a sandbar break at the end of our street and the beach has a community feel to it as residents will frequently join in beach cleanups and Sea Oat plantings.

Our second home has an ever-present welcome mat for friends, old and new, to gather and has served

 as a haven for ESA competitors and parents awaiting the Heat call. The welcome mat got rolled up two

 weeks ago after Belmar, NJ’s Dean and Audrey Iglay were our guests for the Ron Jon Beach n’ Boards

 Fest at Shepard Park. Before they departed it was announced that the Ron Jon event would be the final

 WSL Contest of the season.

Belmar, New Jersey’s Audrey Iglay working the inside left during the USA Prime contest.

In a quick turn of events and a defining moment for mankind, a storm was brewing and Dr. Anthony 

Fauchi, Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases, would replace Jim Cantore for the play-

by-play on this one. Crudely, the Pandemic got named after a popular brand beverage that fills the 

shelves of our garage fridge.

Shopper emerges from Publix in Melbourne Beach with the essentials. Check the sign on the front of her shopping cart.

Corona Virus Pandemic were words Americans never strung together early in January when a ten day

 mixed swell hit central Florida and sent epic waves to South Beach. The hottest winter in Florida history

 was upon us and resulted in some rare sans rubber images. Regulars were joined by ESA All-Stars just

 finishing up at the Surf Expo in Orlando and descended on the Inlet. The USA Prime event would follow

and with plenty of freesurf sessions between, during and after, the surfing was red-hot and photo ops 

were plentiful.

You could be pretty loose in January’s warm water as demonstrated by Chris Peronard in the beachbreak.

While few saw it coming, it hit home like a slam-dunk when the NCAA announced the cancellation of the

 National College Basketball Tournaments…in the middle of a game that ended at the half. Time to take

 this thing seriously.

Access to Sebastian Inlet and all other state, county and municipally controlled Beaches in Brevard County started shuttering two weeks ago as our Governor De Santis fiddled and fretted about what to do. As of Today all access to all stretches of Sunshine State shoreline is now prohibited as a result of the Corona Virus and a state wide stay home decree begins. This hurts but it is the right thing to do.

 Immediately America had a new vocabulary that included terms like “social distancing, self-quarantine

 and flatten the curve.” Daily rituals would be altered as schools, colleges and public spaces emptied and

 hospitals filled to the breaking point. Beaches and Boardwalks were off limits in the Northeast and

 online education became a necessity. Rapidly, with the exception of health care and food and fuel

 facilities, everything closed tighter than a clamshell.

Doubling up on the Social D distance standard! While Madison is committed to helping her Girl Scout Troop with the annual cookie sale, Grandpa Mez – who Purell-ed the hell out of the box and hands first – has instituted curbside pickup for me but to be super safe, we invoked the six foot rule as well. Man gotta have his Thin Mints, even in these times of great peril. Photo: Joan Vuocolo.

And by ST Paddy’s day you had better odds of finding a Pot ‘o Gold at the end of a rainbow before you

could stuff a roll of toilet paper in a supermarket shopping cart. March Madness took on a new meaning.

As a generation we have endured significant worldwide game-changing crisis events: AIDS, Legionnaires

Disease, SARS, Anthrax, terrorist attacks and Superstorm Sandy. But America reacted to all of them 

by stepping up our offense. Covid-19 has forced us to play limited option defense thus far.  For now,

only technology permits our interaction as social beings.

William Hedleston racked up a score of 9.23 on this wave in the USA Prime U16 Semifinals. The kid seems to get better and better with each inch of growth and pound of weight he add’s on to his growing body frame.

As I am writing more states are ordering lockdowns and the Food and Drug Administration has

authorized the use of several drugs as treatment for the virus. Spring has arrived and ordinarily my

wife Joanie and I would be somewhere driving up 95 North right now counting how many hours need

to pass before we can hug the grandkids. That is on hold for now and there is one word for what lies

ahead… uncertainty. Uncertain how long this Pandemic will control our ability get on with our lives,

 uncertain when we get to return home and uncertain what normalcy will be in the future. 

My photojournalist instinct is telling me to get out and create as many images as I can to help tell a story

 in whatever future there may be. 

Sounds like the really long lenses will be needed to document history as it unfolds while I keep the distance.

Stay healthy, keep your distance, wash your hands and remember…happiness comes in waves!

Perhaps the Inlets most in form surfer the past year or two, Chauncey Robinson showcases why with some of his precision moves on the first day of a bumpy north swell early in January.

Talk about the water hazard on the 18th hole ! Aquarina Golf and Country Club in south Brevard has some definite game-changers. I wonder if the course rules allow a drop or a mulligan if it get’s too close or the ball goes in that gaping maw?

The always amped Gnarley Charley showed up at Sebastian recently with his entourage of equally amped groms in tow and got them pumped up pretty good. South Carolina’s Mako Mesalunas is a mini-grom on the rise who bears watching in the coming years.

Kepa Media piling up the points in the semi final of the USA Prime competition.

The Sebastian Inlet Jetty in early March before Covid-19. Most days during the winter tourist season it is shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow with enthusiasts from all over the state of Florida and well beyond vying for space while holding fishing rods of every kind at the Inlet Jetty…

After Covid-19. If you want to catch your supper now it’s boats only access up til now but even that is mode of ocean transport / access is difficult to get to as boat ramps and launch areas are being heavily restricted as the Sunshine State goes shelter in place for the Month of April and, more likely well into May.

Zoe Benedetto in an almost perfect surf photo. Style, great afternoon lighting and no rubber on this top performing Florida 14 year old as she crushes this nice little Inlet nugget

Zoe Benedetto ESM Sick-quence! at Sebastian By Mike Vuocolo from richard meseroll on Vimeo.

Cooper Jewell, another South Jersey up and coming grom, carving back on an Inlet right. Sebastian has always had a strong contingent of visiting Garden State surfers wintering here with more than a few pulling up stakes to set new roots down in Brevard County.

My wife Joanie, center, coordinating the chow for the ESA All-Star crew at the Florida home of Brave New World owner Bill Lammers, while from left, TR Deveney talks story with ESA Director Michelle Sommers, Dean Iglay and DelmarvaÕs Mike Wilson. Rode my first wave ever at Bill’s mom’s home in Mantoloking, NJ fifty five years ago on a 10’0 Greg Noll Figure Eight we borrowed from his neighbor Paul Belmont. Sucker floated me like a cork but I needed to drag it to the surf.

Top Florida charger Chauncey Robinson shooting off his spray gun at first peak. The guy should have a license and background check to wielding such a deadly weapon!

Some rampy backwash action by Tim Everest near the Inlet’s north jetty makes for high performance Skimboarding.

More signs of the Coronavirus kind. Customers needed to wait in long, stay six feet apart Social D. checkout lines as they stockpiled the essentials and cleaning supplies. No need for the express line to be open at Publix in Melbourne Beach.

Mya Sniadach stylish on the Inlet’s lefts.

Logan Radd, a Paradise Beach regular, backhanding an Inlet right.

If I were back home at Manasquan Inlet I could probably take a photo of this same cast of characters on any given day. Monmouth County’s Gary Coble, Kevin Tracey, Jerimiah Hulsart and Sue Coble enjoying a mid-Winter reprieve at Sebastian Inlet during the recent USA Prime.

Mia Gallagher, another ESA All-Star gets a Brevard County post Surf Expo session in at Sebastian.

In a sharp contrast to winter and pandemic chaos back in Jersey right, my wife Joanie enjoys the quite green space we call our second home in south Brevard as well as little Pinot while waiting for the sun to set. You need moments like this right now more than anything except being with our family whom we hope to get back to soon.

I love getting this perspective from the Inlet jetty, especially when someone like Christian Daniels pulls a move right in front of you and you can make the shot with a short lens.

When the waves are not happening there are plenty of things here to keep me with my finger on the trigger. A rare Rosetta Spoonbill gives me a pose by a lake near our winter home home just a few short miles up A-1-A from Sebastian Inlet State Park.

Another surfing snowbird making his way to Florida, Jersey’s Ethan Dunn fly’s over the top freesurfing the top of a First Peak wedge at Sebastian Inlet.

If there were a Pot of Gold somewhere out there it would be easier to find than a role of Bathroom Tissue at Walmart or the supermarket right now. Stay safe everyone, wash those hands, practice your Social D. at all times and we’ll find better days ahead sooner rather than later if we all pull together!

 

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