Those who surf will always prefer to live near the ocean for easy access to their favorite hobby. I grew up on Long Island and learned how to paddle surf (paddle board + surf) in Long Beach, New York. I was fortunate enough to live 500 feet away from one of the best breaks in the northeastern USA. I would wake up 3-4 times per week at 6:00am, walk to the beach with my board, paddle, leash and hit the water for an hour long session before work.
I decided to move to Miami, Florida for a relocation opportunity with my occupation and had to overcome the biggest culture shock in my life. It wasn't the diversity in Miami or the language barriers. It wasn't the year-round heat or the nightlife. It was the insanely flat and choppy conditions which haunt the region approximately 350 days per year. This gives us about 2 weeks per year of clean conditions without wind, which usually fall around the time that a hurricane or big storm will rip through.
Before continuing, let's cover an important definition. South Florida, by definition, consists of anything south of Brevard County (aka Kelly Slater territory). This includes the counties of Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and the Treasure Coast (Martin, St. Lucie, and Indian River). The wave conditions in the Treasure Coast are not bad at all, so we will disregard that region and most of Palm Beach and focus this post around what is known as Southern South Florida or SSF.
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Why are the waves so poor in Southern South Florida?
It's all because of something called the "Bahamas Shadow". The way this works is very simple. The lovely Bahamian islands just east of us eat up all of the natural swell that the Atlantic Ocean pushes our way, hence it's why areas like Elbow Cay and Eleuthera feature incredible conditions.
As you'll see in the photo above, there aren't any arrows touching Southern South Florida. We don't get much Atlantic love. This leaves us with what's known as wind swell. Wind swell is exactly what it sounds like, waves caused by wind (typically on-shore wind). They result in frequent waves making it more difficult to paddle out whereas groundswells are classified as a wave period of more than 15 seconds. Groundswells are ideal. In SSF, wind swells usually come packaged with 20 mph winds which are less than enjoyable for tall paddle boarders like myself. You may as well call me "Jordan the Sail".
Enough negative talk, WHERE can you surf in Southern South Florida?
You can surf anywhere you'd like. One spot won't be that much better than the other. Here are the two spots I prefer:
South Pointe Beach
Miami Beach, FL
This is technically part of South Beach, but here you don't need to worry about savages being ratchet and stealing your stuff. It's much more family oriented and quiet. It's also home of the South Beach Surfline Webcam, allowing you to check conditions before you head out. Parking isn't free but it shouldn't take you too long to find a spot as long as you don't try to park between 12:00pm and 3:00pm. There are showers right next to Nikki Beach allowing you to wash your feet and board before heading back to your vehicle. See top hotels in Miami
Delray Beach, FL
This beach also features a Surfline Webcam with a weird angle, but it serves it's purpose. Most will say that the good swell starts in Jupiter, FL, but I believe Delray gets solid conditions and is about 45 minutes closer to Miami. It's always my fall back option and has yet to fail me. Parking is very easy and could be free depending where you park. Like South Pointe, Delray has numerous outdoor showers to wash off. See top hotels in Delray Beach
To summarize (and a slight tangent): If you can surf in Miami, you can surf anywhere in the world. The conditions are so poor and dangerously choppy (regarding nosedives) that it makes surfing elsewhere a total breeze. It would be a horrible place to learn, I'm not going to lie. Now, I'm no surfing connoisseur and I have admittedly only surfed in 3 states and 1 other country (New York, Florida, Oregon, Costa Rica as of November 2019). 3 of those locations feature world-class conditions for a bulk of the year. It's night and day compared to the dirty conditions in Southern South Florida. Having said that, it's possible to find the waves you're looking for down here, if you're patient.
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