It also served as one of the surfing world's favorite whipping posts, while offering hope to legions of faithful, flat-spell-stricken Floridians and glory to riders seeking immortality. Located approximately 15 miles south of Melbourne Beach, Florida, Sebastian Inlet's story is one of struggle and survival. Fishermen first cut the 500-foot channel using shovels and wheelbarrows in 1886.
Sebastian Inlet is really several distinct waves -- or peaks -- and most are named for their proximity to the jetty. The most northern break is called "OK Signs" for the large plywood placards that notify surfers and swimmers when they're crossing borders. Moving south toward the rubble there's Fourth Peak, Third Peak, Second Peak and the headliner, First Peak.
Catri and company surfed the Inlet by themselves for several years, but by 1969, the word was out: Central Florida had a break worth fighting for. And fight they did. First, it was a tumultuous period of clashing with fishermen that resulted in flying lead sinkers, a few bruised anglers and a blackball ordinance. Then it was struggling with the officials enforcing surfing restrictions.
Today the lineup is regimented more through respect, time spent and sheer talent, and most violent outbursts are random incidents fueled by claustrophobic crowds rather than the overt attempts to keep Sebastian private. Such dreams of sublime isolation were squashed long ago in an avalanche of media attention.
As up-and-coming locals like Jeff Crawford and Greg Loehr gained international acclaim in the early '70s, surfing Sebastian became the path to greater fame for East Coasters, creating a self-feeding media machine: surfers draw photographers who draw surfers who draw photographers, and so on.
While a number of surfers, including Jon Holeman and Jeff Klugel, were joining the race for space, Matt Kechele would ultimately receive credit - and initially, ridicule -- for the innovation, forcing one purist to spray-paint a message on the bathhouse: "Silly Kech, Tricks Are For Kids".
Kechele was only the first in a series of modern heroes to spring from Sebastian. Today, the list includes Charlie Kuhn, Todd Morcom, the Lopez and Hobgood brothers and, of course, six-time world champion Kelly Slater. Meanwhile, the Inlet has also become the primary proving ground for East Coast photographers, helping make a name for prominent lensmen like Dick Meseroll, Tom Dugan and Kevin Welsh, who have pulled the occasional cover shot or poster from the aqua-blue waters and close range that make it a veritable photo studio.
So do the contests. The site of several international pro events in the early '80s and three U.S. championships between 1986 and 1994 Sebastian continues as the annual site of the NSSA's Eastern Championships. A popular WQS event from the mid 2000s now runs as Sebastian Inlet Pro Junior. And Quiksilver's King of the Peak, a long-standing specialty skins event, religiously draws pros for a chance at some decent cash and serious bragging rights.
But Sebastian Inlet is more than a collection of comps, stars and pictures. It's literally the capital of East Coast surfing, laying claim to the greatest influence and attention, as well as the most problems with traffic, politics and potential for turmoil. Fort that reason alone, surfers will continue to make a pilgrimage to this less than holy land: just to say they charged one of the world's fiercest proving grounds -- and survived.
Source: Surfline: Matt Walker