A couple of weeks ago during a run of freak late April swell, as lines of long period swell ran across the then-well-packed sandbars, creating shoulder to head high waves that ran left and right and formed mirror image mid-break bowls, I paddled out on the south side of our illustrious Jacksonville Beach fishing pier.
To the outside I went, where upon my arrival, I was pleased to see I’d be sharing waves with a convocation of local legends. During the two-plus hour session, I watched as celebrated shaper of high-performance surfboards, Mike Whisnant, linked a trio of backside slashes, while Mitch “The Mayor” Kaufmann snagged outside bomb after outside bomb on a well-rockered, 10-foot-plus Rozo, prominent goofy footer and winner of approximately 10,000 National surfing championships, Jason Motes, ripped the bag out of the lefthand bowl, and renowned shaper Clay Bennett bottom-turned and glided across the wave face in much the same way he’d done to earn a spot on the distinguished Hobie surf team in the mid-1960s. It was on this day that I realized our beloved pier was also a veritable living surf history museum. What a lucky boy I was to bear witness!
And how lucky are we all are to have such living legends in our midst. If you are unfamiliar with the rich and eclectic surf history of our little North Florida surfing enclave, fear not, reader, for Mitch Kaufmann, who began documenting the scene here roughly four decades ago has a library’s worth of archival footage and photos.
Recently, the King of the Hill surf contest recognized three of the area’s most influential surfers—shaper and surf shop owner Winnie Strickland, ‘60s female surf pioneer Holly Rubin, and the previously mentioned Bennett—adding them to an eminent list of North Florida surf luminaries that already includes Larry Miniard, Joe Roland and Bruce Clelland. Kaufmann made a video for the occasion.
To brush up on your local surf history, check out Kaufmann’s video below.