Winter Dawn Patrol at Florida's Ormond Beach

Jenn Velie
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While the rest of the country is covered in snow or experiencing downright bone-chilling weather, Florida's east coast slips by with comparatively lovely temperatures. Yes, it's chilly and wetsuits are required. And yes, other aspects of winter still exist—namely daylight savings time—which make after-work surf sessions nearly non-existent. But this little caveat just serves as more reason to get after it early while the getting is good.

When conditions are right, Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona, provides the perfect opportunity for Dawn Patrol surfers during the winter months. It's a great place to catch quality winter waves, and it also has a wonderful place to grab some delicious breakfast grub just a few short steps from the beach—the perfect start to the day.

Wax your board, pack your work clothes, toss in the wetsuit, and set the alarm to ensure a predawn arrival at the Granada Beach Approach in Ormond Beach. Although many of us cringe at the thought of getting up before the sun, not to mention taking a dip in the chilly 62-degree ocean, this adventure is a great way to start your day. As the sun begins to sneak above the horizon, start with a pre-surf stretch while enjoying the symphony of sounds created by the waves breaking along the shoreline. If you are fortunate enough to be there when high Cirrus clouds are settling across the sky, you will delight in the breathtaking oranges and yellows as they ignite the morning calm. These sights alone make the trip well worth the journey. But wait... it only gets better.

Jenn Velie

The paddle out begins by getting through the shore break. It may take you a few minutes to adjust to the chilly water, but your main goal is to avoid getting pounded by the shore break. After paddling through a couple of sets and out to the outside break, it becomes immediately clear how relaxing and soul-enriching it is to be fully immersed in this natural playground. From the pod of dolphins curiously swimming by, to the pelicans soaring inches above the water and gliding along the line of the waves, you'll discover that this isn’t just a playground for surfers. On mornings when conditions are just right (slight offshore winds, 2 to 3 foot swells), expect to have a few other surfers in the line-up with you, but nothing compared to the busier afternoon hours.

As the first set rolls in, paddle into position. The first wave passes over and the offshore winds make the spray off the wave come down on you like a light rain. You see the third wave in the set just peaking over the second and lining up perfectly. Paddle, drop in, and score the perfect early morning ride. The swell may improve as the tide changes and the wind dies down. These rides won't last for long, but they're best in the a.m.

After an awesome session, do yourself a favor and head to Peach Valley Café for a well-deserved breakfast. Restrooms are available at the approach where you can change your clothes before conveniently walking across the street to the restaurant. This wonderful little jewel usually has locals salivating in line as they anticipate the famous apple fritters. During the weekdays there usually isn’t much of a wait though, giving you all the more reason to hit the Ormond Beach early before work.

Start the morning off right with some of the best Dawn Patrol surfing in the area.

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