Jacksonville's Surf History
Jacksonville Beach has always had a unique surfing community, and is home to some of the greatest surfers on the East Coast, and in the world.
In a world where surfing has become commercial, North Florida keeps it real. The slow, easy charm of southern culture combined with good surfing year-round, Jacksonville’s surf community is deeply rooted as an authentic way of life, rather than a brand or scene like the vibe of the west coast. Champion Justin Quintal, currently one of the best long boarders in the world, can be seen cruising his tricked-out VW bus around the beaches when he isn’t traveling the world. Super model and pro surfer Karina Petroni was raised on Jacksonville’s waves, where she built her career as one of the best female surfers in the world.
The history of North Florida surf culture goes back to the 1960s, when surfing became a hip national phenomenon rather than a regional beach pastime. Bruce Clelland was the first surfer from North Florida to put the region on the world surf map. In 1964, the Endless Summer surf movie crew came to Jacksonville Beach, and that day they had a contest for local riders. They recognized Clelland’s talent and invited him to be on the Surfboard’s Hawaii Team. In 1965, he joined the tour and blew people’s minds as an East Coast surfer. He dominated the East Coast scene over the next decade, and made a name for North Florida surfers competing against some of the best in the country. He was inducted into the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2000.
Larry Miniard is another North Florida legend, brought up on the scene in the 1960s with Bruce Clelland. Miniard competed in the World Contest in 1966 in San Diego. He went on to represent the United States in the following 3 world championships, becoming the only surfer in history to represent his country four times at the World Contest. Today, he is one of the best anglers in the region with a national reputation as an expert sport fisherman.
Joe Rolland made a name for Jacksonville in 1968. He was crowned the Eastern Surf Association first Men’s Champion. This was the first year surfboards dropped below nine feet; he used one of the earliest “short boards”, and he soon named his own board style. The move away from long board surfing to smaller boards changed surf culture for the long haul. Rolland continued to shape boards and compete through the 1970s.
In 1977, eight-year-old Sean Mattison surfed his first competition in Jacksonville Beach. He went on to become a pro as a teenager in the 1980s. By 2003, he won the United States Surfing Champion title, and won Gold with Team USA in ISA World Championships. Today, he is arguably one of the best board designers in the world.
North Florida is flush with surf history and serves as a haven for surfers who believe in the nature of surfing. In Jacksonville, you won't find big brand labels based here, but instead, there are world-class surfers and shapers who are truly invested in the authentic surf life that Jax offers, as they have been for over half a century.