COCOA BEACH, Fla. – One of Florida’s most iconic spots to surf has also been ranked as one of the most threatened due to rising sea levels, according to a national study by the Surfrider Foundation.
The foundation, which describes itself as “a community of everyday people who passionately protect our playground – the ocean, waves, and beaches,” ranked the top ten surf spots around the nation they feel are in danger of losing the waves that often fuel tourist economies.
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“I still feel like a kid when I go out there every day,” Matt LeFleur said.
The Cocoa Beach resident said surfing is one of his passions.
“I grew up at the beach, and it’s just a big part of me,” he said. “I always get excited.”
It’s same for John Hearin.
“As long as I’m able to surf them, I’ll be out here,” he said.
The Surfrider Foundation estimates the waves off Cocoa Beach that helped make hometown hero Kelly Slater a world champion now face a big challenge – rising sea levels.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – or NOAA – Cocoa Beach could see the seas rise as much as one foot over the next 20 years.
The same estimates show they could rise as much as four feet by the year 2100.
The foundation ranked Cocoa Beach as the fourth most threatened surf area in the nation:
- HAWAIʻI—THE NORTH SHORE, OʻAHU
- CALIFORNIA—SURFERS POINT
- FLORIDA—COCOA BEACH
- NORTH CAROLINA—CAROLINA BEACH
- PUERTO RICO—TRES PALMAS
- NEW YORK—THE ROCKAWAYS
- TEXAS—CORPUS CHRISTI
- MAINE–HIGGINS BEACH
Hearin helps lead the Surfrider Space Coast chapter.
“The nature of the beach is going to change,” he said. “It’s going to get really flat. You’re not going to have the same sandbars and the wave breaks on the sandbars. So, it would affect the way the sandbars form, and eventually it would affect the way the waves break here in Cocoa Beach.”
Hearin said his volunteers have been working hard trying to stop the ocean from eating away at the beach.
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They’ve planted thousands of sea oats up and down the Brevard County coastline.
“When we have storm events, the plants act to stabilize the beach and hold the sand in place,” he said.
He said they’ve already seen results.
The beach entrance at Slater Way in Cocoa Beach was all sand after three hurricanes blew through Central Florida in 2004.
Today, the same entrance is full of sea grapes and sea oats with a arched walkway for beachgoers.
Hearin said they will continue planting – using nature to fight nature.
“Mother Nature is very resilient if you give her a chance,” he said.
Hearin said it’s a community effort to save the beaches as his organization works with the city of Cocoa Beach, the city of Cape Canaveral and local high schools.
He said he hopes the younger generation learns from this and continues the efforts.