When surfers talk about Florida's place among the worlds' best breaks, two words come to mind: "The Inlet."
Located south of Cocoa Beach, the East Coast's own "Surf City." There is a definitive pecking order on the north side of the jetty at a place called "First Peak." That's where you will find the best and most competitive surfers and a descending hierarchy on the two breaks just to the north, "Second Peak" and "Third Peak."
Florida, like most other surf spots around the world, names its surf breaks after nearby landmarks or some unique or oceanographic feature.
Heading north, you'll find another great local break, "Spanish House." But as the case with Sebastian Inlet or "Chernobles" (sometimes referred to as "Third Peak"), be aware that you'll have plenty of company even on days when the surf is just fair.
Heading north from The Inlet, you'll pass through Satellite Beach, home of the pro surfers C.J. and Damien Hobgood. Next are the world-class breaks of (heading north) "Second Light," "First Light" and "Picnic Tables."
Cocoa Beach, home to six-time World Champion Kelly Slater and Ron Jon Surf Shop, the world's most famous surf shop, has its own allure. The crowds are smaller and the waves a little mellower, which makes it a good choice for longboarders and beginners. Turn down and off "The Streets," 13th, 14th, 16th etc., and you'll find rideable waves (There are 20 of them). The Cocoa Beach or Canaveral Pier is the site of many local contests, including the Easter Surf Festival. Jetty Park to the north is good spot when the winter wind blows. It's also prime location for fishing and sight seeing.
North of Canaveral, you'll find New Smyrna Inlet, the south side of the famous Ponce de Leon or "Ponce" Inlet. Known locally as "the wave magnet," Smyrna's waves are well suited for trick riding or "hot dogging." It's also now considered the most consistent surf.
Ponce Inlet to the north rivals Sebastian as Florida's premier surf spots. As with any place where the surfing is stellar, you will have company.
In nearby Daytona Beach, surfing is more strictly regulated due to the high number of visitors. The area's best break, the Main Street Pier, is a good winter destination, but check with the local surf report before heading over.
In Flagler Beach, you'll find another pier, which is the place to go after a cold front rolls through and the wind clocks around from the south, kicking up near-perfect waves that rival those of Sebastian or Ponce.
Keep heading north up A1A and you'll hit another classic Florida break at the south end of Crescent Beach, Matanzas. On the north side of the inlet, you'll find lots of surfers on longboards. The south side also breaks. High tide is best.
St. Augustine and Anastasia State Park have several good surf spots. The "Blowhole" usually generates bigger waves. Another spot, "The Middles" tends to attract crowds, and for a reason.
The Jacksonville area has a high concentration of surfers. Hanna Park, just south of the Mayport Naval Base, has camping, showers and excellent surf. "Mayport Poles," is the spot to go on a northeast swell. Two other Jax breaks of note are "Lighthouse," north of the poles, and "Officers Club," north of the lighthouse.
Florida has dozens of good surf breaks south of Sebastian Inlet, but the most famous is undoubtedly Palm Beach's Reef Road. One of the few places in the state where the surf can achieve true "big wave" status, Reef Road can max out at 15 feet.
Florida's Gulf coast doesn't offer the surf of the state's Atlantic coast, but all winter, you'll find surfers lined up at the best breaks from St. Petersburg to Venice Inlet and all across the northwest.
Southwest breaks of note are Treasure Island's Sunset Beach and St. Pete's Upham Beach. Bradenton has Beach Street and the Twin Piers. Sarasota County Lido Beach and Siesta Key are worthy of note, but the mack daddy of them all is Venice Beach.
On Florida's northwest Gulf coast, you'll find surfers riding "the Bungalows" of Perdido Key, "The Wall" and "Pier" in Pensacola and "The Breakers" in Fort Walton Beach. You can't talk about northwest Florida surfing without mentioning "Concrete Pier" and "St. Andrews Jetty" near Panama City Beach.