F. Y. I.
The original owner/operator, Chuck Johnson, built the Cocoa Beach pier in 1964.
The original concept was for a fishing pier, bait and tackle, snack bar/grill and tourist shop. The pier changed the bottom, the bottom changed the surf, the surf brought the surfers, the surfing did not blend well with fishing (fish react strangly to 9' plus objects racing over them). The fishermen stopped coming and the surfers didn't have money for hamburgers. It was a good day for dad when he found a buyer. By then I was surfing and continued to aid in the saving of countless thousands of innocent fish lives.
Strange But True
The Cocoa Beach police dept. once had officers stationed on the beach to arrest anyone who surfed within 100 ft of the pier.
The short lived sport of "fishing for surfers" with a 4oz weight was also controlled by the fearless C.B.P.D.
- Mark Johnson, Rockledge, Fla.
"Those were the days, my friend... we thought they'd never end"
Life's a strange trip, isn't it? You go full-circle to the edge, then back again, where nothing (but everything) has changed, where ---forty three years after you left --- you're exactly where you started, where, in the wink of an eye and through the kaleidoscope of memories, all things are once again familiar.
I didn't care much for Cocoa Beach when we moved there in 1959, the year my dad bought the old Missile Lounge from Bill Tekmeyer (on the east side of Atlantic Avenue across from Bernard's Surf, and which he later sold to Moe Kirshenbaum, who then turned it into a strip joint). Coming from Miami Beach, I thought Cocoa Beach a gritty little town, redneck to the core, with architecture as boring as the faceless blockhouses out on the Cape. How wrong I was!
We lived at first in some beachfront apartments just south of the 520 (the Saturn Apartments, I think), at the end of a sandy trail carved through the scrubby Palmetto palms that was impassable when it rained, a building whose only redeeming virtue was a clear sight view of the tip of Cape Canaveral, where more rockets blew up on the pads than ever reached orbit. Excitement and good times ---for those of us not old enough for the bars favored by the space workers--- centered around digging up clams in the Banana River, then baking them at outrageous bonfire-lit parties down on the beach.
When the chance came to finish school out in California, I left.
Eight years later, in 1967, I came home, back to the beach. I got a job at WKKO as a disc jockey with the plain-vanilla name of "Hal Martin." (The promo jingle went something like "More fun, more music... Hal Martin... W... KK... Oh!") Since I'd surfed in California and knew a few of the industry heavyweights (Hobie Alter, Corky Carroll, Chuck Dent), the station foolishly chose me to broadcast the Easter surfing contests.
I started hanging around the Pier, riding the nine-six Ole that I'd dragged east from Seal Beach, meeting locals (Ted Lund, who'd let me do my own skeg repairs at the tiny rental shop that was Ron Jon's back then and for whom, when I sold them advertising, I'd coined the slogan "Not one of many... one of a kind"; Dick Catri, who offered valuable pointers on how to handle the chop; and a girl named Jan who offered... well, let's leave it at that). It was a tight-knit little crowd who's only membership requirement was that you had a love for the ocean, that you were "local", and that you were loyal to the community.
When the Pier became a tourist destination, overcrowded and troublesome, the regulars moved on, choosing spots less populated but with waves every bit as good (better, in fact). We all know the names now: 4th Street South, Picnic Tables and the "O" Club, Lum's, the Boardwalk in Indialantic, Sharks' Pit, Spanish House, Sebastian.
My affection for Cocoa Beach, then, centers on "the Apollo era," that special period from the mid-Sixties to the early-Seventies, when countless transient vagabonds drifted through town in a never-ending stream of flowered VW vans , when no excuses were needed for a party, and when legends seeped in truth were born. It was a time when real-life astronauts (Shepard, "Gordo" Cooper, Schirra) were as ever-present as twenty dollar "lids" of Mexican grass, and when knee-high "grommets" like Gary Propper, Mike Tabeling and Pat O'Hare were honing the skills that would later make them local household names in the surfing community.
Today, on the surface, Cocoa Beach seems to be just a tacky assortment of motels, condos, and open-all-night tee shirt shops catering to goggle-eyed tourists with second-degree sunburns. But beneath that neon patina of a middle-class vacationland, there's a real community formed from a once sleepy little barrier island fishing spot, a place of small-town attitudes with a big heart and a soul as deep as any village that's survived the storms and vagaries of life.
It's a place where even an old fart like me, with my Walden longboard, flowered board shorts and graying chest hairs, can catch a few good rides, tip back a few brews at Jonathan's, Coconuts, or Paddy Cassidy's while staring admiringly (and wistfully) at the world's most gorgeous young ladies, and feel that right now, in the time and space offered up within this very moment, I'm home, full-circle back again to where it all began.
- Aloha! Rod Barken, Clearwater, FL
I was so broke...
I remember being so broke that I could not afford a short board. I took an old Atlantic, stole my neighbors jig saw, and cut it off at around 7 foot. This was around '68. Tabeling opened a shop over at White Rose shopping center and told me I was crazy. But then I found out that Oceanside had this deal where you could make payments on a board and leave it at the shop. You could come in on the day you were surfing and use it and return it. I also remember when I got in a little bit of trouble and the judge was judge Propper. I won't say how it came out.
I also remember the great expeditions down to Spanish House, shark pit at daybreak and watching the Patrick Pier break up during some stupid storm. I also remember sneakin off from home saying that I was going down to the store and going surfing as hurricane donna was coming or going out, I can not remember now. I remember hanging out at 4th or 3rd Street south after the surf went bad trying to figure out the new phenonmen in my life.....girls.
What a life, no condos, plenty of beach, bonfires if you wanted, sleep on the beach and enjoy life.....that was the time. John, since you can write, the picnic tables were great because you could get your shower before you went to the surfing movies and concerts....remember hearing Blookrock at the Hilton, the Outlaws at the Satellite (much later) and getting pulled over in CB and letting you go! What a time.
- Jim Barfield, Merritt Island, grew up in Rockledge....
Surfing Canaveral Jeties
I surfed "The Pier", Canaveral Jettys, and the Patrick Pier in the late fifties and early sixties. I remember when Cape Area Surfers Club RULED!! Gary Proper and Claude Coggins were hot. They really put Cocoa Beach on the map. What a beautiful time that was.
- Joe Elmore, Lindale, Tx.
When I lived in Cocoa Beach...
I lived in Cocoa Beach from 1963 to 1973 (my father worked out at the cape). I would often ride my bike down to the pier just for something to do and to search for soda bottles to get the 2 cents deposit from them. My father was not too pleased with us riding around there, too many "hippies" hung out at the pier he would tell us...
It was a very good time to live in Cocoa Beach.
- John Bray, The Pentagon
Inside the jetties
I used to surf inside the jetties during winter storms and hurricanes until they finally posted signs. I bet alot of the "newbies" wouldn't have any idea that it used to be done.
When I first started surfing in '64 you wouldn't be caught dead anywhere other than the pier, O club or the boardwalk. It was both a matter of being seen and the fact that it wasn't too cool to say that you surfed at some "unknown" beach. So, what were some of the "first" hip local spots? 4th Street, 16th Street, Lums, & Hamburger House were considered to be cool to be known at and seen at.
Also, some of the old "secret" spots... We used to call the spot between south O club and AP shack "nibbler's", don't ask me why, I don't know. But we sure got the looks when we talked about the great tubes at Nibbler's! Also... We all know that the old timers call 2nd light "AP Shack", but what was the name of the old beach ramp (automobile) just north of the base? Magoo's!
- Howard Alward
Back in '71 I lived in Vero and surfed Sebastian and Spanish House frequently. I purchased an Oceanside board from one of the Margolis brothers at the shop on A1A in Cocoa Beach. It was brutally damaged one day and my brother and I drove up to have it repaired. Just so happened the waves that Sunday were 4-6' and perfect glass. My brother and I had no boards with us. I believe the one Margolis brothers' first name was Mike, his brother was a photographer that frequently had his photos published in Surfer magazine. He offered us both boards at no charge, insisting that we hit the great surf. He talked us into it. He was bumming because he had to keep the shop open.
What a great day he enabled my brother and I to have. Easily the finest session I have ever had. Thirty years later his kindness is more appreciated than ever for the memory he allowed me to preserve. We surfed the spot right across from the old Oceanside shop. Hospitality like that is rarely found today.
Anyone want to talk old story or have original trivia about Cocoa Beach?
Anyone want to talk old surf story or have original trivia about Cocoa Beach and Brevard County?