Jacksonville Beach Pier Use

Please see below for a position paper by the Executive Committee of the Surfrider Foundation’s First Coast Chapter on the current state of use on and adjacent to the Jacksonville Beach Pier. If you have any questions or comments, please email us or come to a meeting.

For quite some time there has been an ongoing dispute between fisherman and surfers over the area in and around the Jacksonville Beach Pier. We at the Surfrider Foundation First Coast Chapter understand that due to the close proximity of our respective activities, there are times that accidents do occur and tempers can flare-up. We note that the actors in conflicts between the two parties are a very small minority of their respective groups, and most surfers and fishermen on or near the pier behave appropriately and act respectfully towards each other.

As a matter of record, it should be noted that the Surfrider Foundation has within its membership, both surfers, fisherman, and those who are actively involved in both endeavors. As such, we understand each sides desire to partake in their given endeavor in the most enjoyable ways.

After the subject was raised In the December 7-13 issue of Folio Magazine, and in an attempt to look for ways to create a positive dialog and help resolve the issue, the Executive Committee of the First Coast Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation invited a group of fisherman headed by Joe Dionne as well as a representative of the Jacksonville Beach City Council to a sit down meeting. The tone of the meeting was very friendly and open.

From the outset, it has been the Chapter’s preference to find ways other than restrictions to resolve the conflict. We hope both groups can team up to educate surfers and fishermen on the issues. By doing so, we can establish a greater respect between our groups and avoid legislative restrictions that may be untenable for either group. The City should take the time to carefully evaluate all options, including how they have been implemented and received at other sites.

During our meeting the subject of resurrecting the 300’ buffer zone that existed at the old pier was brought up by one of the members of the fisherman’s group. After some debate the fisherman’s group agreed to compromise and proposed a 200’ buffer. While our Executive Committee was not enthusiastic over the proposal and still hopes to avoid any buffer ordinance, we did agree to support up to a 200’ buffer ordinance if one were to be enacted, given the following provisos:

  1. The ordinance be enforced equally for surfers and fisherman who are in violation, ie. – A surfer who persistently remains within the buffer zone, cuts lines intentionally, or otherwise harasses or confronts a fisherman, or a fisherman who casts beyond the buffer zone, intentionally casts at a surfer to cause harm, or otherwise harasses or confronts a surfer.
  2. A surfer will not be penalized if a wave they are riding carries them inside the buffer zone, provided they subsequently paddle back outside of the buffer zone. A fisherman will not be penalized who inadvertently casts in the direction of a surfer with no intent to harm.
  3. That the rules would be relaxed seasonally during periods of low usage on the pier (i.e. – the winter season between the months of November and March).


  1. Mani says:

    I feel the buffer is imperative, because all of the fishermen and women are not regulars. For that matter they are not all proficient in the skill of casting 3 to 6 oz. weights. My main concerns are safety and coexistence. A 3 oz. lead weight traveling at high speed can be lethal. Please take that fact into consideration guys. It’s my desire for all parties concerned to enjoy their sport.

    PS: It is, however, considered and was built as a fishing pier.


  2. Zach says:

    I agree with these conditions I feel they are very reasonable and consider each sides arguements fairly my only concern is there was no mention of a still very possible bodily harm to a surfer. An example using one of the buffer zone conditions; say a surfer rides a wave into the buffer zone and a fisherman casts out. For all practical purposes (however unlikely) this fisherman accidentaly hits the surfer with a 3 oz pyramid wieght(a very common wieght and shape for pier fisherman). Now there is an injured surfer(if hit in the head, a dead surfer) what happens??

    • PJayS says:

      Buffer zone or not, if something like this ever did happen, I think they would look at the intent of the cast (as they would in any other wrongful death situation). I don’t think establishing a buffer zone would give fishermen impunity to target surfers in violation, just as I don’t think the lack of a buffer zone gives fishermen no legal recourse should they harm a surfer. Accidents do happen, and intentional harm does happen. I don’t think the existence of an ordinance would really change the legal approach to something this serious.

  3. VictoriaRose says:

    I’ve been out to the Jax Beach Pier once this year. It was a beautiful day in February and surf was up. Surfers were so close to the pier that many times I could not cast out for fear of hitting someone. One man lost his rod to a surfer. A lady next to me had her line snagged on a surfboard. The most harrowing occurance for me was when a surfer came from under the pier, from the other side, barely missing my 2 lines. I don’t worry about my lines and rods so much as the potential injury to a surfer. I know when you are young you feel invincible, but the danger of surfing under/close to the pier very much outways the thrill.
    Surfers, just think of the devastating head injury you can sustain by hitting a concrete piling, or having a 3-4 oz weight fracture your skull….why risk it? Even a rusty hook penetrating your skin could lead to blood poisoning or tetanus. I realize it is only a few who spoil it for everyone… most surfers are very aware of the danger and keep their distance, and these surfers are a joy to watch.
    I do not feel any aggreement is going to get rid of these rogue surfers. Only thing that will work is removing and banning these particular surfers from around the pier, along with stiff fines and/or jail time. Establish a city ordanance and enforce it.

    • PJayS says:

      I think you are right on with the safety concerns (and your apprehension with casting near surfers for fear of harming one). One thing I think is important to keep in mind is that “rogue” surfers are not the only problem at the pier. We need to acknowledge that there are bad apples on the pier as well as in the water. Then we can address both sides fairly.

      • VictoriaRose says:

        Lol…ok, I acknowledge there are bad apples on the pier who downright hate the surfers and try to hit them on purpose, cuss, yell, get very angry and upset because the surfers are disrupting their fishing lines, pulling their rods in the water, etc, etc. Feel better?

        • PJayS says:

          I felt better until you qualified your entire statement by blaming the surfers. Do you really contend that a fisherman has never been the instigator at the pier? And even if a surfer is disrupting lines or pulling rods (generally being discourteous), is striking them with a lead weight really an acceptable response?

          • VictoriaRose says:

            It is what it is. I wouldn’t hit one of them. Actually, I moved 3 times the day I was there, trying to get out of the surfers way. It’s not worth it to me, to travel from intercity Jax, pay 4 dollars, then not even be able to fish. I can understand the anger felt, but no, in my mind, in this particular situation, I cannot justify that kind of violence, but I can understand the anger and frustration. Just be glad the fishermen have not pulled out their 45′s yet…lol.

  4. shine says:

    We have the high ground, so let’s give it up. This just muddies the water – SR needs to stay out of access issues.

    • ecronin says:

      Scott has worked hard and long on access issues in the past. He more than most has experience in dealing with this type of issue. I’m not sure why he thinks the Chapter should stay out of access, but I have to respectfully disagree with him as access is one of the tenets of Surfrider’s mission statement.

      However, I don’t see in the mission statement where that encourages Chapters to cede access or segregate a beach. Either way, in all the places I have surfed I have never seen a situation where buffer zones did not penalize surfers.

      The executive committee is to be commended for meeting with the fishermen, but I think they should consult with the membership before creating any official position that represents the Chapter.

      I would suggest sending a survey to the membership at large asking what they support. I also acknowledge that returns from the membership of surveys are minimal, but at least you have given the membership a voice in the position the Chapter is taking.



      • shine says:

        Ed, SR should stay out of these issues because it is a surfing organization who has shown it is not willing to represent the interest of surfers during both the Huguenot Park access fight and now this puzzling position about the pier. The current rules regarding the pier were set by Jax Beach after meeting with fisherman, surfers and other interest. Giving up the ground you won is makes no sence at all – not to mention the Florida Constitution grants servers legal access to these waters. It is a far stretch for COJB make laws that ban surfing – banning surfing to provide preferred access to fisherman is completely inconsistent with the law.

        • admin says:

          I must point out to both of you that the purpose of this posting is to get your feedback. We are asking for your comments and questions, not stating that this is the be-all, end-all of the surfing community. The EC, along with other members at meetings over the past year, developed what we believe to be a reasonable position on the issue. Now we would like to have it vetted by our members. There are only so many ways to create dialogue between members. The best way, of course, is attending meetings (at which we have been discussing this issue ad nauseum). An emailed membership survey would, as you said, get minimal response. Even with a high response rate, we are getting quantity over quality. I think we are better served by allowing a public forum for this debate (this comment thread) – and I believe the dialogue so far bears that out.

          Scott, keep in mind that Surfrider is more than just a surfing organization. Preservation and conservation of the natural environment, access to waves and beaches for all, surfing opportunities, and education are all important principles of the foundation. The Huguenot Park issue is much too complex for blanket statements about which side represents the interest of ALL surfers. Preservation, access, and surfing opportunities are all involved and surfers views on that issue run the gamut. You clearly have a lot of background with these issues and know the history and law involved at both Huguenot and the Pier. We would love to have your input at our meetings going forward.

          Thanks for all the feedback everyone! Keep it coming. We will continue discussing this issue at our meetings, so stop on by (date, location, and place can be found on our “Calendar” tab).

  5. db says:

    I agree on the safety concerns. Normally when I surf the pier I stay pretty far away, but I’ll never understand why the fishermen feel the need to cast so far? Isn’t the advantage of fishing a structure keeping your line close to the structure?

    The surfer’s medium is in motion, the pier is not.

  6. Mani says:

    Ok, here’s the thing; First and foremost is co-existence. We are all interested in the same body of water. The surfers are convinced that the pier generates bigger and better wave action. This might be true, I can’t say. The fishermen know that fish come in through breaks in the waves and congregate in troughs that form between the breakers and the beach to feed on crustaceans stirred up by the waves. That’s why we cast.

    In my opinion compromise is the only fair solution, however, is must be reasonable.

    This condition is not reasonable because it would be almost impossible to determine intent:

    “A surfer will not be penalized if a wave they are riding carries them inside the buffer zone, provided they subsequently paddle back outside of the buffer zone. A fisherman will not be penalized who inadvertently casts in the direction of a surfer with no intent to harm.”

    Lets work together on a responsible solution.

    Tight lines & Happy surfing,

    P.S. If you live in a glass house, it’s not wise to throw stones.

  7. jwalkfly says:

    I use to live in Flagler Beach. they had a pole up so surfers and fisherman knew the boundries. The Police enforced the boundries and almost all surfers and fisherman did. I see the problem at this pier being not only being with the fisherman and surfers but the law enforcement. The rules above are good if law enforcement enforces this rule. I have another suggestion, Let the surfers pay $4.00 to access the water at the pier as a fisherman does. Give them an arm band and enforce the rule if they don’t pay as a fisherman on the pier. Bet that would cut down the numbers as it has stopped me from going out there dealing with all this hassel. I beleive in the freedom of the sea but if we are all not sinceable about this we will loose both of these freedoms to government….

    • PJayS says:

      You do not pay to access the water. You pay to access the pier. The pier was paid for by the taxpayers, so equally by surfers, fishermen, and non-beachgoers. Keeping the pier standing requires taxpayer money, keeping a sandy beach requires taxpayer money. The water, however, does not require taxpayer money. If you want to swim or paddle out in the water to catch fish, you don’t have to pay $4.00. However, if you want to stay dry standing 30 feet above the surface of 20 foot deep water on an artificial and expensive structure, then yes you have to pay $4.00. Appreciate that that is all you have to pay. And thank non-fishing taxpayers, including surfers, for supporting your hobby. Surfing is the only activity out there (including sun-tanning and throwing a frisbee around) that does not require taxpayer dollars.

  8. ndnjoe007 says:

    Position paper by the Executive Committee of the Surfrider Foundation’s First Coast Chapter on the current state of use on and adjacent to the Jacksonville Beach Pier.

    Look at # 1- The ordinance be enforced equally for surfers and fisherman who are in violation…………here is the big kicker…….be enforced BY WHO? Someone on the pier?…….someone on the beach?……a paid someone who has the authority to enforce? This person can declare a violation on someone, and then levy a punitive measure? Kicked off the pier, kicked off the beach, present a citation for a fine? Who will the enforcer be, and how will he be compensated for his duties? What will his hours be? Who empowers him to have authority? Any thoughts on this…….or are we to accept a buffer zone……on a gentlemans agreement???

  9. Ron says:

    I get very frustrated when I pay eight dollars for my wife and myself to fish and people are in the water that I paid to fish in. If people are allowed in this water that I paid my dues for it is unfair for them not to pay also to use this area. How much money was spent to build this pier and should it be used for its intent ? I cannot believe the leaders of this city would approve in their budget to spend this money and not have common sense rules to keep people out of the water close to the pier where people travel from their homes to have a very nice pier and gladly pay to fish there but only to get frustrated and cannot understand why this is going on. Is this happenings because of the waves or just the convience of parking. I don’t believe the waves are any better in this area. If buffer zones are enacted but within my casting limits then we might as well just allow surfers to use the North side of the pier and pay four dollars and the fishermen use the southside and pay their four dollars. This basically is ridiculous that the city government would build a very expensive pier and not let it be used primarily for fishing as designed not for surfing. I do not go to Publix to purchase a lawnmower so why build a pier and spend lots of the budgets money and allow surfing to hinder could be paying fishermen.

    • PJayS says:

      Please see my reply above to jwalkfly (you do not pay to use the water, you pay to stand on an expensive piece of wood elevated above the ocean).

    • ndnjoe007 says:

      One DOES pay to use the water……….don’t see any fisherman fronting any money to fish fron a pier if there is no water below. No water, no money! A simple prospective. No surfer has paid a fee to use the same water. Responses from JWALKFLY and RON seem to tie in to this perspective, and adequately identify issues to be addressed by the powers that be. Lotta work ahead.

      • PJayS says:

        This is simply not true. Anyone can fish from the beach or from the water for free. The only place you have to pay a fee to fish is from the pier. That is a choice, not a requirement. I agree with “no water, no money,” but you can say anything after that. No water, no Jacksonville. No water, no complex carbon-based life. I don’t have a problem with fishermen fishing from the pier, I just have a problem with you thinking that because a pier is there, you own the water around it for some reason. You don’t even own the pier.

  10. Mani says:

    What part of the words reasonable and responsible is not getting through here folks?
    There is a clear and present danger that stands out in my mind. I don’t want to be responsible for sending anyone to the hospital, do you? If people are within a castable distance of the pier (regulations or not) they could be seriously injured. It’s not about money, It’s not about taxes, it’s not about what’s yours and mine, It’s not about whether the water is free or the sand is, It might well be about someones Life or Death.

    Think about it!


  11. shine says:

    I think in a case like this, SR should involve all its membership in the decision, and not have the board making policy decisions without that input.

    Again, you won this fight years ago — how do you think this looks to members of the surfing community?

  12. Larry says:

    Scott ….. You know that we agree almost in totality on positions that are “SR” related, however; I must disagree with you that this “fight” was won previously. This issue has been ongoing for decades and while the current COJB admin is not inclined to legislate, nor enforce any type of hard and fast Surf / Fishing Zones Law … this does not preclude the distinct possibility of future admin’s taking a decidedly different approach.

    This position paper by Firstcoast Surfrider looks to be an excellent starting point for a set of workable rules to help EVERYONE enjoy the fruits of the pier. As with anything of this nature, nothing is ever perfect and can not be improved. Note that above the FCSR adimn asked for more input. While I agree that it is important for the membership of FCSR to be involved in anything this important. After talking to current Chairman Paul Hayden I am comfortable that this was done. At least with the core of the membership, that being those that actually attend meetings. Further, I would like to point out that it was the “membership” that DID NOT support a stronger position on the Huguenot access issue. As no traction to do so could be found among them by the members of the EC (at that time) that did support a stronger position.

    For those of you that do not believe that the surf zone adjacent to the pier creates better waves … you are mistaken. The very same sandbars that are built and held in place by these types of structures, both attract fish and cause waves to become larger, better defined and far far more “surfable” than the remainder of the beach area.

    It is for these reasons that it is imperative that both groups find common sense, workable solutions. I applaud FCSR for it’s continued effort(s) to do so.

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