March 2019 and comments on Shoal surfing the Gulf of Mexico

Rad waves yesterday. Photo: venicejetty.com

Noon Wednesday and it looks better than it did this am. The buoy is up the wind is offshore, tide is incoming, best spots probably have waist high sets.

Friday 6am DP and the tide looks very low as the moon sets.

Any waves out there?

The last frontier of gulf coast surfing- shoal surfing. Sterling Spencer in the Cyclops of Pensacola Pass Shoal. Photo: Surfer Mag.

Sunday 11am WFL Forecast: Sorry for the late updates. The next system is actually notch down. Late Tuesday will have a small N line but it may not get rideable. We’ll take another look tomorrow.

Scoring the GC: Story goes like this…. got off work at 1130 pm Tuesday night and saw 25 mph sustained across the ne gulf all blowing NW. To me that was a sure sign of waves. Woke up at 445 Wednesday morning and saw that frontal thingy from the east coast coming and calm/glassy no wind conditions down in SRQ. Scrambled as fast as I could and even left my darn coffee at home as I raced down to Venice. Tide was Wayyyy high so it didn’t really look like it was breaking from the lot, but ya know how it is, you gotta get out there.( saw the backs of some solid ones down in the hole kinda) Got out around 7ish at first light and it started pulsing really hard just the 3 of us our trading high tide gnarly barrels and air sections! Even broke my leash. Surfed just the 3 of us until about 1030 when it seemed like 30 people showed up at the same time as a waterspout and some rain. Surfed a while longer dealing with the crowd, drop ins, loose boards, little kids swimming around with their leashed board dragging. (Not complaining just being real). Long period and pulsing swell made it easy for even the littlest of kids to come out so it was a bit crowded. One of the most epic mornings I’ve had in idk what like 8 years of going down there every cold front cleanup almost ?! I’d attest that to no one showing up at all for the whole morning. It was like a wave pool, super glass conditions, wave after wave after wave, straight slabs, no breaks! Paddle out, catch a wave, paddle out, catch a wave, non stop! That’s the story and I’m sticking to it! Super sore today, feel like I caught 500 waves haha.

N Atl Swell


Scoring Waves Late: my 11yr old Cassia wanted to go surfing (and I will do anything to get her off devices) but it was super late in the day, there was only barely an hour of light left so we hustle over to +++ *****, nobody was out at Pools… it was flat but I saw one foot it 13 seconds on the 41115 buoy, I know my 11yr old can surf that… Greg pulls up on his motorcycle and we are doing double takes as the flat ocean fills with corduroy lines, whales spouting out the back… just like that, it happened. as soon as we pulled up these lines just started pouring in chest high, long… Then me and Cass wait to paddle out, we thought it was flat and halfway out we got pounded by about 12 waves… she almost went in, finally the sets stopped and we finish paddling out and it was flat as a lake, then another 5 minutes and another set came. super powerful little waves, waist to chest. So we got to see the beginning of a solid swell from the north Atlantic.

Fun Boards are Fun

This board is 7ft by 20.5 2.75 thick. Super fun stretched out fish.

Jules on a epoxy 7’2 by Matt Kechele, one of the funnest boards we’ve ever had- the Pug Performer.


Small wave surf in PR: I can’t bring myself to ride a 9’6. I don’t look down on those who do. But I’ve found here in NW PR the 7′ range fun boards fit the waves perfect, squeeze life out of knee high and I can still turn them. Plus they are easy for my daughters to surf.

Thurs 8:30am WFL: Wow so stoked for the guys who scored yesterday. It sure was not there for the DP but filled in with the tide right? Looked super fun…Next Tuesday a low pressure is forecast to form in the NE gulf and may pull a little wave behind it. We will be watching that for the next surf. Today it’s 1/2ft to 1ft and looking calm for the weekend with offshore flow.

We had S and SE winds all week. This was Tuesday but the swell is gone now. More waves for tomorrow looking chunky.

Caribbean: El ninyo dried out the Caribbean tremendously. We had months of dry sunny days and everything here in Rincon was brown. The farms and forests were suffering a serious drought. Yesterday was our 1st good rain in months. It started at 5pm and rained until 9pm light and heavy at time putting 1″ in the gauge. This am everything is bright and green and happy. A 5ft at 12 second swell is on the way for Friday and the weekend, hop a plane. I’ll try and post some pics.

Noon Wednesday and it looks better than it did this am. The buoy is up, the wind is offshore, tide is incoming, best spots probably have waist high sets.

Wed WFL 7:30am It looks super tiny, flat… It never came up yet. We were hoping for a 5ft buoy and it’s 3.6 at 6 at the moment(it is trending up slightly). Most likely somebody will find something to longboard today. Knee high range at best spots down south. But right now on the cams, St Pete looks flat and Bradenton occ knee high but only at a couple spots. Wave models show it could possibly get rideable in a couple hours in the knee to thigh range at very best spots. If you really want to surf today keep an eye on it, maybe don’t write this one off quite yet. Add-on: I just saw 99 is 7ft from the NW, maybe don’t give up… Just wait till later and keep an eye on your bext cold front spot.

Tuesday 7am WFL: A cold front will pass later today… You know how a lot of the cold front surf lately seems to be not so strong and more down south than up north? This one looks like that to me also. I hope I’m wrong and butt flea gets that super fun incoming tide wave (I used to surf it every chance I could). Nice NW push over the NE gulf today into tonight will put a small NW swell on the beach tomorrow am with offshore winds. Those good cold front spots down south should be small but fun, knee to thigh. Take a floaty board. Tide: HT at 6am to a tiny LT at 10:40am then coming in good until 4pm… Last swell the buoy got 5ft at 7. Hopefully it gets close to 5ft tomorrow am at this time. Bummed the Venice cam is down that I saw… Thanks to Joey for the reports….
Monday WFL 8am: Tomorrow winds will veer NW, a 1ft N line is expected late in the day. Wednesday looks knee to thigh clean NW waves down south at best cold front spots. So Wednesday am looks to be the best chance for surf. Mid-morning may be the best time to look. Have a good day.

One of my favorite pics from 2018. St Petersburg by Mo Lelii.






51 thoughts on “March 2019 and comments on Shoal surfing the Gulf of Mexico

  1. admin Post author

    I didnt really see alot of south Ericto but definitely a west coming off that gradient in the middle gulf. Check Monday around 3 or 4pm. Keep an eye on 42099, 3ft at 8 west… not big but some thigh high swell at best spots would be sweet…

  2. fuggin

    Checked the spot here in Sarasota and not quite working yet. It’s 1-2ft and breaking on the beach. Wind just started cranking from NW. I’m going to do my taxes and check it later 🤙

  3. admin Post author

    IMO south pine was not really good on small NW swells and hard offshore winds, low tide. Lenny surfed those and it was always like knee high, Venice was always twice as big

  4. JDH

    It always seems to do that with a north wind moving northeast. Pulls any swell parallel to irb and never swings around to south pine.
    I remember before the Internet watching Meteorologist Dick Fletch on channel ten I think, on a day kinda like this. Said the seas were 3-4, so I got my mom to take me to TI and it was elephants on the horizon headed to Cuba.
    I made the same mistake as a kid living in sarasota. Walked from my house on lime Ave all the way out the causeway passed St Armands to lido, to see flatness looking like a fool, skunked.

    Maaaaaaaan, these young bucks don’t know how good they got it.

  5. admin Post author

    those are some memories JDH I always watched Dick Fletcher also, good meteo that guy. I lived in Seminole and surfed Indian Shores but if it was a cold front day and too small we’d try to go up to IRB or Bellair to catch some waves… weird front huh? should have been better surf I thought but maybe somebody scored, tell us about it

  6. JB

    RIP to the old Sandbags days… Old Upham would get fun on these fronts too (late 90’s – early 2000’s) but I think it would need a little more west in it. A slow semi mushy wave but on the right day with the right equipment you could catch one from the corner all the way to the snack shack! Admin, I had an old board of your that ways magic there. 6’ blue bat quad (before they were cool) with your name on the stringer. I was a 120lb grom then and that thing would catch everything. Wish I still had it.

  7. admin Post author

    no your right Upham would have waves today if it was back in the day. on incoming tide upham would suck the NNW right in even if it was ony 1-2ft it was long and fun. Wonder how upham is today

    Bat is still making boards from Haliewa, not sure of the price but he ships international. I have to order from him soon… That board was 6’0 X 21.25 2.25 hand shaped epoxy quad and yeah it would catch anything. I had so many amazing sessions at Sharkys on that board, magic carpet, so light and floaty… He copied that board from a Chris Birch Split Lip same size but the bat was way better than the split lip, I think we called it a ‘modified pickle’ with the pointed nose(not round)… batsurfboards@gmail.com tell em Micah sent ya…

  8. Rob

    Old Upham … RIP … when I got a “real job” and there were waves, I’d still be able to surf in the morning before having to be at work. I’d dawn patrol at 6 am, shower in the parking lot, and 15 minutes later be at my desk in professional attire. Then, like everything these days, it got ruined.

    I’d like to think that it’ll have a resurgence one day just like the c*v* when they dredged that place and back filled …. it took years, but finally started breaking again …

    With Upham though, they have to dredge that shoal … otherwise the N swell will never make it in like it used to. Rumor has it, that that is exactly what they are going to do … so perhaps that place will come to life again?? In the meantime, it’s NOT a good wave …

  9. KB

    1st Micah, ur site kicks @$$!!! Next ur weather predicting skills are 2nd to none. This is the go to site for early morning risers. If u don’t know this site, then u just don’t know. I agree w Rob, Upham RIP. The summer dredging washed all the sand into the channel. That shoal has produced great SUP waves for us all winter on SW, W, and WNW swells. Super long lines w limited to no people out. Hate to see it go but if it means a resurgence to Upham waves, then I’m all for it. Keep up the Great Work and hopefully would like to make it down to PR someday cause it looks like a lot of fun. Take care.

  10. admin Post author

    Thanks guys! I would love to see some SUP shoal pics. I bet it does get long….

  11. OriginalJud

    I see Ben Gravy is headed to PR would be cool if you spotted him and showed up in the vlog

  12. cb

    We had an epic day last winter on a boat based surf excursion. Left St Pete early on the go fast boat with enough boards for every type of condition and headed south for AMI. 15 minutes later we’re there (emphasis on FAST), but the winds were all wrong south of the bay. A quick blip of the throttle and we’re outside Bunces watching solid lines just peel along the shoal. Got in for an hour or so and caught the longest right I’ve ever surfed in the gulf. The waves were good, but the current was ripping through there so we kept scouting north. Shell Key… not working. PAG… not working. By this point the wind had lightened, and it was turning into a gorgeous day. On the horizon we could see big white rollers on the shoals off Upham.

    “Probably sucks, but it’s worth a look.”

    Man, the session we had on that shoal was other-worldly. Steep, fast and enough juice to give ya a wack or 3 off the lip. As we loaded back onto the boat, with giant smiles on our faces and that feeling that only comes when you feel like you just got away with something that should be illegal but isn’t, a pod of dolphins rolled up on us and gave us a full-on Sea World exploited animal show complete with flips and rolls and tail walking and Flipper noises.

    I guess back in the day there used to be a dolphin park there?

    That was one of my top days in the Gulf, the best being some random south swell that no one noticed on New Year’s Day ‘01 or ‘02.

  13. admin Post author

    What a cool surf story… I’ve seen those shoals with glassy swells outside Ft Desoto, I believe you… Back in the day there was a park near Upham called the Aquatarium and yeah they had dolphins, this was mid 70’s… google it… not sure of the exact location?

    awesome story CB, I know guys have been doing boat trips down south also to certain spots and surfing fun waves w/o the parking hassles

  14. FBC

    Very cool story CB – MW which wave would I surf? Tough choice but the first pic of that A-frame wave with both lefts and right is what would make me drop everything and run for the board!

  15. JDH

    I love a good boat surf story on a Sunday morning.
    Would be a dream to be able to boat it, in between spots and check the Outside Shoals in different locations.
    That day we had with the long fetch earlier in December, I walked down to pass and there was a real nice longer wave than at SS, IMO.
    The sand has really collected out in front. Hopefully it stays and continues to build and we will have a legit break.
    But yeah, Rob, Upham will always be shaded by it. The way the rocks are is terrible.
    If they used all the granite rocks to extend the jetty sticking out on the Upham side, just 50 yards, it would create a perfect line coming inside of it.
    The extension would buffer the north to south flow of sand as well.

  16. Rob

    Great story CB … I look at those shoals from the 7th floor of TradeWinds often when we have waves, and you can tell it gets good. You just need the equipment to surf it safely (like a boat) … glad to gear a story where someone actually did that.

    Micah ,,, I remember during that public meeting that me and you sat in on before they installed the GEO tubes where they showed the model of how the pass would fill in and the shoals would form. I remember distinctly thinking “welll on a bright note, it could produce another surf spot” .. fast fwd years later, their model was correct but the spot isn’t really accessible. Story of the Gulf I guess!

    Side note … I think that winter 2019 came in like a lion and out like a lamb because it was El Nino’s last breath of life. I think we see a pattern change for the next few years now. Thoughts on that? CLIMO shift?

  17. hd

    i was thinking the same thing rob ^^. the victory at sea/reverse hurricane day was pretty cool to experience but probably not gonna happen again honestly unless we decide to stop being lazy entitled f**ks and acknowledge our impacts.

  18. m-dub

    What about a glassy knee to thigh shoal wave Sunday morning? There are Shoals in STP pass-a-grille Fort Desoto long boat, sarasota-lido and more

  19. fuggin

    New pass shoals work but its a paddle if you dont have a boat. I take my paddleboard out there sometimes but its sharky!

  20. admin Post author

    get a partner and start planning a shoal trip, a 3rd guy to take pics, lets do this GC we want a documented trip out to the shoals on a small glassy day to see if the waves are bigger and better and longer out there! 🙂

  21. JDH

    Fuggin, I consider the shoals outside the point that when the sand is right, wraps all the way around into new pass, my home break. I grew up paddling out there by myself. When it’s flat I go snorkeling out there. There’s a big drop off that magnifies the energy. You’re right though. Very sharky. I’ve had a few close encounters there.
    How many times do you see it lining up something serious and everyone sticks to the jetty while it’s so much better out there?
    If I was in the 941, I’d head out there with you.
    I caught the what I consider the best Fla waves of my life there during Wilma in 05.
    With it being far offshore, even stiff offshore winds can create havoc with the wave. Current can get real swift.
    Props for going out there. Very few do.

  22. JDH

    Micah, have you gotten any NW swells in Rincon this year? Seems like everytime I look it’s NNE.
    Any true NW frontal passages?

  23. admin Post author

    yesterday a weak front washed out over us and we got .20 of rain but not really a temperature drop and that’s the closest a front has gotten to us since March 2018. The high has just guarded us all winter.

    its been beautiful WX, low humidity for the Caribbean but super dry and the surf sucks most of the time, my worst winter surf wise here in 8 years. No real NW swells since December… NNE is a great direction here bc it bends and wraps with good form… but not even those, just shoulder high N swells 2 days a week and dribble the rest of the time, I should not complain but Hawaii of the ATL is what we expect and it has not been that this year… thanks for asking. Caribbean WX is under studied and weird

  24. Rob

    Yeah … I wanna see this shoal trip materialize. Takes balls. I know that it’s super sharky … super sketchy … would be ideal to have a ski accompany the boat and do tow ins.

  25. Ericito

    I’d Be down for a shoal trip! I’ve been trying to finagle a coya Costa strike this year too but no one can manage it, it would have to be last minute to score a swell! Got a couple hours Friday am to head down south hopefully there’s something! Bummed on the time change, lost an hour of for dawn patrol :/ and I work all nights. Wah wah

  26. MikeA

    I’ve surfed the shoals in Sarasota county a few times, and they do get good, especially on those seemingly quiet days when there’s groundswell or moderate period, and then of course during the bone-dry cold days. With the right boat and crew, it’s a little bit of work, but definitely worth it. There are two passes locally that work often, but I think down south is even better. Some of those less visited islands hold a lot of promise.

  27. JDH

    No doubt, Mike. In the 90s, the shoals outside of the point we’re surfed regularly. I don’t know why but I never see anybody out there anymore.
    Everytime I’ve paddled out the last several years, I feel like Jeff Clark all alone at Mavs.

    I had a disposable camera I took shots of out there.
    I had a few snaps left, so I took it with me and was going to finish it after my morning sesh. I put it on the lifeguard tower and by the time I got back to it, some jerk snatched it. A Frickin 20 dollar disposable! I was so pissed. Still am.

  28. JDH

    Question: Like I said before, I live in Northwest Pasco, near Hudson. I have this inclination to surf the islands Off of Cedar Key. If you look on the I-boating water depth map, it shows 15 feet of water real close to 3-4. It then gradually drops off.
    Not much different than Anclote, and I know there’s waves there.
    I was thinking about taking the kayak and venturing out on a south swell.

    Am I living a pipe dream or does anyone think it’s possible? It’s about the same drive time from me as sarasota and was wondering if it’s possible.

    Has anyone looked at the set up out there before or know any information about those outer Islands? There has got to be a wave out there. It’s deeper than the AMI Pier on the intercoastal and that place can get rideable.
    I’m an explorer and have dreamt of finding a wave up there.
    If you haven’t ever looked at it, check it out.

  29. Rob

    JDH … I have looked at those islands for years on Google Earth. They are respectively Atensa Otie Key, North Key, Deadman’s Key, Seahorse Key, and Snake Key. While I am willing that some swell makes it in there, my thoughts are that it’d be unlikely to find any real waves. It’s just too shallow and you can see it from above if you go on Google Earth. Maybe under the right conditions and at high tide? Who knows though? I’d be inclined to do the same thing if I lived up there merely to explore it for myself. Believe it or not, there is an actual cemetery out on Otie Key… makes me wonder what the story is behind that and who inhabited the island long ago?

  30. JDH

    You got it Rob! It’s those north Islands. There seems to be a better channel of deeper water.
    I see you’ve scanned every nook and cranny.
    Yeah high tide was what I was thinking.
    Need one of those big spring blows from the southwest. My favorite swells of the year.
    Yeah I saw that about that place. Didnt look to much into it passed that point.
    I keep thinking about calling the marina there and doing some asking.
    I wonder if the longer angled fetch would make up for the less depth on the incoming.
    It’ll stay in this Gulfcoasters dreams till I see for myself. The Panhandle is a long way from there.

  31. Rob

    Hey JDH … yeah … I found a shipping channel that is right off of Seahorse key. and Seahorse Key actually faces South … it’s the farthest point that sticks out on our coast before the coastline turns into the Nature Coast officially (check it out on Google Earth…. I can see how that might pick up swell. The water depth and swell direction is what it is going to come down to. If you go, make sure you document it.

  32. admin Post author

    sorry that got hung up Rob… dont know why. I was out surfing and just saw it… thanks for posting.

  33. Nelson

    Thanks Micah for the solid common sense report.

    Surfline content is enough to drive me nuts.
    West Florida
    Local Headlines
    West Florida Forecast: Small NW Windswell Today, Slow After 3 hours ago
    Shark Bite Friday Afternoon on Treasure Coast 1 day ago
    Watch: Finally, Fun Surf for Florida and the Southeast 5 days ago
    Watch: Sharks + Surfers = No Worries 6 days ago

  34. fuggin

    I had a lil window today between work and picking the boy up from preschool. Scored! Waist sets with favorable winds at my usual spot. Had a few waves run 50yds+ to the sand. Left earlier than I wanted to but also I left smiling and stoked! Anyone score some shoal action yet? Npass was doing its thing on the horizon. I don’t have a boat, but a SUp set up for fishing. Its not a surf vehicle by any means with a planing hull and triple keel(kinda like a sup kayak) and I towed my funshape out there several times. I recommend a boat for any takers. Water moves fast out there and its a long paddle back if you get in trouble. 2 out of the 3 times the lil swells bounced my anchor off the bottom and drifted onto the shoal and flipped my rig 😨 So true about Surfline Nelson, but they are the 2nd best at forecasting waves 1 week+ out, you just have to learn their bias 3ft gulf coast is 2ft east coast is 1ft west coast is flat in Hawaii lol

    Micah is 1st by the way, appreciate what you do man! 🤙

  35. KW3

    A spot north of sand key turned on after 12:30 for a short time. It faded after a couple hours but was fun while it was working. Thigh to waist and clean north swell, glad I left work early for it! Thanks M Dub for the great gulf forecasting!!

  36. Ericito

    Story goes like this…. got off work at 1130 pm Tuesday night and saw 25 mph sustained across the ne gulf all blowing NW. To me that was a sure sign of waves. Woke up at 445 Wednesday morning and saw that frontal thingy from the east coast coming and calm/glassy no wind conditions down in SRQ. Scrambled as fast as I could and even left my darn coffee at home as I raced down to Venice. Tide was Wayyyy high so it didn’t really look like it was breaking from the lot, but ya know how it is, you gotta get out there.( saw the backs of some solid ones down in the hole kinda) Got out around 7ish at first light and it started pulsing really hard just the 3 of us our trading high tide gnarnia barrels and air sections! Even broke my leash. Surfed just the 3 of us until about 1030 when it seemed like 30 people showed up at the same time as a waterspout and some rain. Surfed a while longer dealing with the crowd, drop ins, loose boards, little kids swimming around with their leashed board dragging. (Not complaining just being real). Long period and pulsing swell made it easy for even the littlest of kids to come out so it was a bit crowded. One of the most epic mornings I’ve had in idk what like 8 years of going down there every cold front cleanup almost ?! I’d attest that to no one showing up at all for the whole morning. It was like a wave pool, super glass conditions, wave after wave after wave, straight slabs, no breaks! Paddle out, catch a wave, paddle out, catch a wave, non stop! That’s the story and I’m sticking to it! Super sore today, feel like I caught 500 waves haha.

  37. admin Post author

    epic story Ericito, we’ll go with that… the beginning sounded so familiar 4 45 forgot the coffee, down south at the crack… except for me it was always sharkies from 99′ thru about 2009 when the sand bar got weird, paddling out even though it looked weak and then it’s start pulsing and surfing for hrs straight w/o having to wait for a wave. Epic!

  38. FBC

    haha left work at 11:10 or so, driving up to parking lot entry and saw Ericito driving out… surfed look very clean but on the smaller side. Water color was be-a-utiful. Quickly got out there to paddle out through pumping waist to chest sets coming in. E is right about “you gotta get out there”. Had to wait just a few minutes but occasional shoulder peaky and feathery sets came through, lots of hooting going on. Dolphins started stealing the show for the small group of tourists on the beach. Windy offshore conditions, solid clean swell and unbelievably gorgeous day made for some late March epic surf vibes

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