I was recently driving back to Florida after an awesome week in the mountains of North Georgia with my fiance. It’s a long drive, and checking out the billboards to pass the time is a good way to lose all faith in humanity. There’s an abundance of billboards for anti-abortion, adult superstores, “spas” with trucker parking, and my personal favorite, “Hell? …Oh, I forgot about that.” It’s like Jesus and the Devil are duking it out for advertising space. Closer to the Florida state line, Cocoa Beach starts to join in the fun. Their billboards litter the road side like cigarette butts in the sand at, well… Cocoa Beach.
For the ill informed, the billboards and advertising paint Cocoa Beach as a sophisticated, tropical paradise along the Space Coast of Florida. For those of us that grew up surfing those dirty waves, we know the truth — Cocoa Beach is trashy.
If you were to hold a black light over the state of Florida, Cocoa Beach would be a shining beacon of debauchery. It’s where all the bros and sluts of the southeast congregate to abandon their last shreds of dignity on Spring Break. It’s where every trailer park rose with a tramp stamp and deadbeat dad unite because they couldn’t afford a ticket to Vegas. It’s where the cockroaches of society gather to spread STD’s and sell meth to the bums sleeping at Jetty Park.
Did I go too far?
See, once upon a time, Cocoa Beach was my paradise. I’ve blown several Publix paychecks on the casino cruises that sail from those dark shores. I’ve walked into the wrong seedy motel off A1A and seen things my sheltered eyes were not prepared to behold. I’ve had a trigger happy cop pull his gun on my friends and I while searching our Camaro for weed — unsuccessfully. I’ve been woken up and solicited for drugs while napping in my Jeep Wrangler between surf sessions. I’ve jumped off the end of the pier during a hurricane to score some major swell. I know this town, well enough.
Clearly, I did my share of contributing to the trash of Cocoa Beach in my youth. Then I grew up and ventured beyond the shores of Central Florida. When I returned many years later to the place where I learned to surf, I expected to find the paradise I remembered. Instead, I found trash. I found bags of Lay’s potato chips and styrofoam cups floating in the water, cigarette butts and crumpled beer cans lining the shores, and the kind of people that thoughtlessly added to mess. Maybe I’m the one that changed, and it was my sugar-coated teenage memories that led to my utter disappointment of Cocoa Beach. Maybe the town truly did fall deeper into a perpetual haze of Spring Break parties. I don’t know.
Sometimes I hear lore from the previous generation. Old Florida surfers like my Dad that remember the way it used to be. Ron Jon’s was no more than a little surf shack on the pier. Friendly folk would hold each other on the hoods of their cars to watch the space launches. Surfers would kindly share the waves and retrieve each others boards because surf leashes hadn’t been invented yet. The town was filled with astronauts preparing for their next mission.
Gone are those days of yesteryear’s. Things changed.
Mr. Ron Jon himself, hailed by some as the father of east coast surfing and others as a reclusive criminal sell-out, has transformed his iconic little surf shop into a gaudy monstrosity of a tourist trap. Ron Jon’s only saving grace is the fading memory of its past. On the other side of the road is something worse, the Cocoa Beach Surf Company (CBSC). A former disgruntled manager of Ron Jon’s constructed the competing “surf shop” right next door in a pissing match of true Cocoa Beach form.
I don’t know those guys. I shouldn’t pass judgement. They’re probably nice, fun-loving surfers with some awesome stories. However, I will speak to my personal expertise and say that CBSC has the worst logo in surfing history. The name doesn’t exude much creativity either. Most of this article is a jab in good fun, a roast of a town I love, but c’mon!? Have you seen that logo!? No self respecting surfer wants that poor excuse for a stick figure on their car, let alone a t-shirt. It’s like the inspiration was to make the kokopelli guy retarded with a surfboard under his arm. I could design a better surf logo blindfolded. My unborn child could design a better logo. It needs help, man. Please consider a re-branding. If not for the sake of all mankind, at least for the dignity of the company.
As for the rocket launches, those have lost their charm as well. I remember hearing the sonic boom of the shuttles while playing outside as a kid. It was a magical feeling knowing Merica was exploring space. Now, most people would rather watch an episode of “Real Housewives” than see mankind travel beyond our own planet.
And the surfers, friendly faces are few and far between in those waters. The waves below the pier are littered with aggro groms trying to become the next Kelly Slater, and kooks with their blue soft-top Costco boards crashing into each other. On the pier fishermen compete to catch surfers, or mutated 3-eyed flounders in the polluted water below.
Honestly, Cocoa Beach isn’t all bad. I may have exaggerated a tad. I’ve clearly got some gripes with it, but it’s only because I love the place. It had all the right nurturing to become a charming little beach town with a rich history of surfing and astronauts, but somewhere along the way things went wrong. Despite all its faults, Cocoa Beach still holds a place in my heart. It’s like high school, most of it was an awful experience, but somehow I still look back on it with fond memories. I’m not asking for a different town, just a better version of the existing one. How about using some of that billboard money on town beautification? You’ve got potential old friend, if you only tried. Daytona Beach has enough trash to go around. Let them carry the torch.