Jacksonville Beach is a very young, laid-back town in the north-east part of Florida. It is about six hours from Atlanta, but the ride is absolutely worth it. Around town you see lots of long-boarding and vintage biking, along with several bars with good food and live music, specially along the coast area nearby the Pier. In this area there about 2 surf shops that do rentals, however they open a bit late (10 a.m. +). If you prove you have some surfing experience they might even rent you a nice board =). Check out http://www.surfjaxpier.com/ for daily surf pictures, rentals and more!
As usual for the Florida, hurricane season and winter have the best waves. So from the end of Summer all the way through October it’s surfable without wet-suits, and during the winter some swells are brought with the North-Eastern Winds (might check the “Poles” surf break for less choppy waters).
Jacksonville Beach Pier
Since the beach break extends over a wide area, there are waves to ride for everyone, however paddling in can get a bit technical for the inexperienced surfer during windy, quick-period swells. Try to find a spot that looks less rough or wait till the sets die down before paddling in. Many surfers like to paddle in right near the pier because the waves usually jack up a little near it.
Mayport Poles a.k.a. “Poles” is in a public park area north of Jacksonville pier. The park, called Hannah Park, is a few miles north of the pier, just south of the Naval Base. It costs three dollars to park all day, which is pretty good deal for Florida public parks. All the surfers go to the northernmost parking lot (Parking Lot 1), so just follow the signs. It’s usually best to walk north along the beach (don’t worry about the “military property” sign, people do it all the time) towards the jetty for a bit before paddling in, especially if there is a southward drift.
The breaks seem to be relatively safe, but there is always the possibility of getting pulled by rip currents when you’re surfing beach breaks. If you feel yourself being pulled out to sea, remember to swim parallel to the beach to try to get out of the rip current. Nevertheless, there are tons of lifeguards around Jacksonville beach since these breaks are right on the city’s shore, but there are none at Mayport Poles. Be careful when paddling out into the breaks, occasionally sand bars may form after swimming through some deep water, so you might break your surfboard fins!