Surfers can still find surf on Florida’s Space Coast. I haven’t applied Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax to fiberglass resin in 45 years, but the surf and sand memories are clear as a bell. In the very late 60’s, after work as a teenage breakfast cook, I’d throw my Dewey Weber Surfboard through the unzipped fogged and faded plastic zippered window of my '63 Buick Skylark convertible and head beachside with Led Zeppelin or Crimson King blasting from my 8-track.
I attempted surfing again nearly 30 years ago and it was depressing. Getting all my body parts moving in the same direction to catch a wave and then getting up on damaged knees was painful. Getting up on my feet was, well, near impossible. I raise a warm stout to older guys and gals that can still paddle out, drop in on a wave and manage a bottom turn.
[You might catch Bruce Brown’s 1966 movie “Endless Summer” on your smartphone or tablet. Still a classic. You’ll also want to show off your hip surfer creds with your own “Endless Summer” Florida license plate from your tag agency if you’re a resident, or, a facsimile of the plate for the front of your car.]
The Space Coast is literally awash with places to surf from north to south.
I have not forgotten the sheer physical effort it took as a teenager to manhandle a heavy 9’ board down to the beach while looking good to tanned girls in bikinis. As I dragged my surfboard into the water, again look good to tanned girls in bikinis, I paddled out to the breaks, and then look [I thought] cool hanging ten off the tip of board.
My handsome millennial son (who knows about these things) tells me there are a number of beachside surfboard rental locations up and down the beaches. Unless you have a ’63 Buick convertible like I did, I highly recommend renting as close to the beach as possible.
Here are a few surf spots up and down Florida’s Space Coast that I like:
Playalinda Beach. Playalinda is owned and operated by the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. This is another reminder to pack your Golden Eagle Pass if you are 62 plus. Otherwise it’s $10 to drive in and $1 to walk in. The beaches are serene and quiet compared to Cocoa Beach. Plus, if you time it right, you may be able to see a rocket launch from there!
- Cocoa Beach Pier. Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier has seen a major renovation, but lost none of it’s fun, beach-going charm. There are restaurants, bars, shopping, live entertainment, fishing pier, beach rentals, showers, beach volleyball courts, and lifeguards. This satisfies my ‘be near beer’
- Lori Wilson Park. Just south of the big Cocoa Beach hotels, my older surf friends tell me this a great place to reconnect with surfing. With plenty of parking, there are toilets, showers, year-round lifeguards, onsite vendors, a dog park, and a nature center.
- 2nd Light Beach. This is where all the locals go to surf. 2nd Light is opposite the main entrance to Patrick Air Force Base on A1A. Family friendly for kids and grandkids, lots of free parking, toilets and showers. Beware that 2nd Light is patrolled by military police, so be on your best behavior. If you have a military or DoD ID you can access to the Beach House for food and drink.
- Spessard Holland. Melbourne Beach is one of those quiet areas I enjoy about the Space Coast. Thin on big hotels and bars but heavy on natural beauty. When you surf here, you surf in peace. Surf fishing, too. Bring your own water and beverages. They are making small improvements to bathrooms and showers. Lifeguards on duty over the weekends.
- Sebastian Inlet State Park. A beautiful park at the south end of Florida’s Space. Over three miles of beach, with some of the most consistent breaks in Florida at the inlet’s first break next to the north jetty. Several major surfing competitions are held at the park every year. There are concession stands for food and drink, toilets and showers.
Après surfing: live music everywhere
Beach life is exhausting. A late afternoon nap is a requirement. But what’s on the agenda for the evening?
Happily, there is plenty of live music on the Space Coast. A good deal of this music is geared to the senior demo, which means ‘60s and ‘70s music. Go to spacecoastlive.com for an exhaustive on-line resource that includes venues and bands.
If you like jazz and jam sessions, head to Heidi's Jazz Club in the heart of Cocoa Beach on Minuteman Causeway. There’s live music every Wednesday through Sunday. Their open jam session starts Sunday evenings at 7 p.m.
If a live symphony orchestra is more your style -- and you don’t mind planning ahead -- check out the nationally recognized Space Coast Symphony. You’ll want to get a jump on their schedule; they seem to perform in large church sanctuaries.
The Maxwell C. King Center for the Performing Arts has a schedule of music events throughout the year. From nationally known artists and cover bands to comedy tours and theatrical performances, there’s something for everyone to enjoy here.
If Space Coast history and music is on your agenda, check out Merritt Island’s Field Manor’s Facebook page. Field Manor is a 19th century waterfront homestead, grove and farm with the added plus of early evening music events throughout the year.
Next month I’m headed south into Melbourne to guide you to a cool botanical garden and a downtown Melbourne busy night life.