I’m Gonna Need a Bigger Boat. Florida Standup Surfer, Meet Florida’s Bodysurfing Sharks.

by Chris Dixon


Mike Ramos Damned if he Does, and Damned if He Doesn’t. Photo Courtesy: Julie Skarratt. 

A couple of days ago, an email from my buddy Mike Ramos stopped me in my tracks. It seems that Mike had gone out for a standup paddle surf session at the Reef Road surf break in Palm Beach. The surf, thanks to the same massive storm that left Boston under a fresh blanket of snow, was epic – particularly by Florida standards. Disconcertingly, there were also a lot of big fish out there – especially jacks and spinnner sharks, which were erupting from the 75 degree water all around him. “There were fricking spinners everywhere,” he told me.

With most of the eastern U.S. in a deep freeze, Mike paddled out into the Gulf Stream and caught what he calls one of the biggest, best waves he’s had in years. He tracked the ride with his new Rip Curl GPS watch. It was 400 yards long, with a top speed of nearly 20 miles an hour.


Mike Ramos, Palm Beach, Going Off. Photo Courtesy: Julie Skarratt. 


But to quote Ralphie from A Christmas Story: “Sometimes, at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at it’s zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us.” As an amped up Mike was paddling back out, the horizon darkened with one of the biggest sets of the day. “I started to panic and just hauled ass outside as fast as I could,” he said.

Mike reckoned that if he couldn’t make it over the wave – which was looking more and more likely, he’d simply leap off his board just before the wave smashed him, and dive deep. But then, a sight that really put his heart in his throat. Speeding towards him in the face of the first wave was a school of surfing spinner sharks. His mind raced. If he dove off before the wave, a shark might collide with him. Or worse – what if he landed on one? What if they were startled and attacked? “It scared the shit out of me,” he said. “I could see their eyeballs.”

In an instant, Mike decided to stay on his board as long as he possibly could – better to be pummeled by wave than shark. So he basically went over the falls in the whitewater and was obliterated. Here’s the sequence:

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Photo Sequence Courtesy: Julie Skarratt.

As he sputtered back to shore, Mike thought his moment of terror would only live on in his memories until he returned to the beach to find that his friend Julie Skarratt had captured both his epic ride, and his encounter with the landlords. “Man, I got clobbered,” he laughed.  “But at least I didn’t get bit.”

Check out more of Julie Skarratt’s impressive portfolio here.

Or the Stormrider Surf Guide to Florida. 

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