Small surf city Cocoa Beach worries about going big time under the lights of a surf stadium

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Cocoa Beach local Dan Colburn weighs in on what could be a major artificial surf project on his home break.

If you are a Central Florida surfer, you have probably heard the term “Surf Stadium.”

This is the term coined by Cocoa Beach mayor Dave Netterstrom, and a few other proponents, to describe the proposed pier to be constructed in downtown Cocoa Beach. But to call it simply a “pier” is a bit misleading.

When I think “pier,” I think of a wooden, pelican poop covered structure extending out into the ocean, the primary function of which is to allow crusty, salty fisherman closer to their catch or a place to drink beer and talk about fishing … either one. Usually both.

While this “Surf Stadium” will undoubtedly have its fair share of pelican poop, its primary purpose is vastly different.

The construction methodologies are intended to result in wave energy congruent with the old Sebastian Inlet jetty (circa 20th century) and the Newport Jetty on the north side of Newport Harbor (aka “The Wedge”), producing a bouncing wave off the pilings that significantly increases the size and power (that would be “refraction” for you educated types).

Sounds pretty awesome right?

By and large it is. But it’s the intangible byproducts of the project that have many locals, including myself, questioning its merits.

Have you ever found one of those sleepy little towns where most of the residents know each other? There’s that quaint little café downtown that has a chill vibe and the owners know you by name and by order, you can navigate the entire town via bicycle, you know everyone in the lineup at least by face, if not name?

Well, Cocoa Beach is one of those towns. We fly under the radar here. If you ask most anyone from other parts of the world they will know us only by virtue of our favorite son, Kelly Slater. Most don’t know exactly where it is and those that do will be quick to tell you the waves suck in Cocoa Beach. And that’s just fine by me.

I first came here in 1985 with my brother and learned to surf at a spot we called “Driftwood,” because of the beach house there rumored to have been made entirely from driftwood. We ate tacos at a family owned taco joint on the south end of town with terrible salsa and talked with locals at a small, privately run surf shop where the owner was the guy shaping the boards he sold. Cocoa Beach has a rich history and is deeply seeded in east coast surf lore claiming residents and Hall of Famers such as Bob Freeman, Dick Catri, Skip Savage, Claude Codgen, Mike Tableing and of course Mr. Slater.

But all in all it’s a small town not unlike one you might find in rural Nebraska. You drop a “surf stadium” in the middle of town and all of a sudden things get a little hairy when a swell clears the 12-second mark. We get every Jabroni from Orlando and Tampa making their way to our little slice of heaven thinking that because they shelled out $800 for the latest model from Lost they can drop in on us old salts riding our locally crafted Mayos, Neilsons, and O’Hares.

Listen, I’m not entirely against progress; I understand that the town I fell in love with will never remain the same.

However, I suggest we tread with great care here else it be turned into some version of the hell that is southern California.