For many years surfers fought to eliminate the argument that our jetty should be extended. I hate to speak too soon and will be knocking on wood…but are our worries over? The past few years have seen a huge resurgence in the crowd factor at NSB inlet. So much so, that on any given Saturday when Surfline puts the conditions in “green” (if you’re not familiar with Surfline, they have a wave rating system that is so complex only colors could respectively evaluate the surf conditions: blue=poor green=good orange=epic) there are anywhere from 300-600 surfers from the curve just past Minorca Condos to the jetty. All of these surfers flocking from different areas in Florida, the vast majority from Orlando area and west Volusia, must be spending money, right? The overall concern most local surfers have is that the jetty extension would essentially destroy our extremely consistent surf break that so many Floridians flock to when the rest of the state is experiencing little to no swell.
One would think that these large numbers would have been enough to stop the extensions for the sheer fact of all these surfers spending money in town on lunch, gas, beach passes, and so on. Especially considering our seasonal economy, which is considerably weekend based as well. The surf doesn’t wait for the weekend, and surfers awaiting swell don’t wait for the weekend either. I’ve asked myself on Tuesdays at 11am out surfing at the inlet, ‘do none of these people work or do all of them have a semi flexible schedule and are in business for themselves?’. It is frustrating for the locals who surf in fair and poor conditions, who put in the time at their local spot despite the Surfline forecast, to have to deal with the huge crowds on any given day of the week. But maybe we should be semi thanking them? If they weren’t here, would our surf spot have been destroyed years ago? After all, if it was just the local surfers in our small town of 23,000…would we have had any say at all? In a tourist based economy, I’d have to say the answer is no.
During the past few years the New Smyrna Beach surfing community has appeared in several different publications. I received an email from National Geographic a few years back asking if I would mind submitting a few quotes for their story on the top 20 best surf towns. I accepted (somewhat wondering if it was an actual article). A year later all of the sudden the city is using surfer images on it’s signage around town, they are putting up billboards along I95 featuring surfers, and so on. So all of the sudden the city is now using surfing to market tourism, far more than ever before. Here is the article link if you’re interested: National Geographic Top 20 Surf Towns.
Since then Surfer Magazine published an article also noting NSB as a prime surf town and Outdoor Magazine followed suit. If you Google the New Smyrna Beach jetty extension the last mention of it is back in 2010, about a year prior to the Nat Geo article. Now I can’t discredit lack of funding for the reason the jetty extension was put on the back burner. In the majority of annual discussions on the subject, it was mentioned over and over that there was not enough funding to cover the Army Corp of Engineers estimate to extend by 900 feet. Funding needed to occur prior to the environmental permit expiration in 2011, which obviously did not happen. So was it all just good timing? My money is on their lack of money and the influx of surfers heading to the inlet helped in part by the articles, Surfline, and word of mouth…the good ole “It was flat in Melbourne today,” said dude #1, “Well I surfed New Smyrna and it was head high,” said dude #2.
Whatever the reason, I’ll try to maintain that the publicity helped at least deter officials from continuing to press the project. And in the meantime, I’ll try to bite my tongue before remarking to the beginner surfer who just aggressively cut me off in the crowd of 400 and keep my fingers crossed for our tiny jetty to remain unchanged.