Growing up in Sarasota is kind of a catch-22 when it comes to beach culture.

With the #1 Beach in the US and colorful Siesta Key Village, there was no lack of sun-filled days (and sunburn) in my childhood. Sure I got the sandy feet and tanning perks of the beach, but none of the “cool” ocean sports like surfing and diving.

Growing up, I wasn’t super comfortable in the ocean. I always longed to surf and dive or do anything that required oneness with the water. It’s only as an adult that I overcame my fear of the ocean’s unknown depths.

Now, I fully enjoy surfing, freediving and just floating along the shoreline. But still, these are all activities I associate with somewhere other than Sarasota. Most people don’t know there’s surfing in Sarasota, Florida.

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

Sometimes you need a new perspective to be thankful for what you have right in front of you, and on a gloomy Saturday morning, that’s just what my friends Britt and Kelsie helped me find.

I don’t even think to check the surf report in Sarasota, because all these years, I’ve been so determined to classify Sarasota as a destination to escape rather than enjoy. When Britt messaged the group chat late Friday night with “we may go surfing tomorrow,” I was ecstatic to do something out of the norm for me in my hometown. Tropical Storm Barry was blowing through the area, giving us some choice waves!

two women with surfboards lido beach sarasota florida

Courtesy of Britt Mattie

Sunrise Surfing in Sarasota, FL

I don’t even own a surfboard but Britt was kind enough to let me use her board (she was out of commission from a wisdom teeth extraction). We could hardly believe it when her nine-foot longboard fit in my Kia Soul!

By 8 am, Kelsie, Britt and I were at the beach unloading our boards and walking out to the sea. I was stunned to see so many surfers—more than 20—out in the water catching actual waves on Lido Beach.

Surf As a Piece of Home

All of my experiences surfing have been somewhere else—Ireland, Costa Rica, Panama, Australia. Surfing is something I associate with travel, which makes me love it even more. But sitting on the waves on that early Saturday morning and being in the salty water earlier than ever before in Sarasota was a different kind of magic. One of my favorite aspects of travel is that it helps me appreciate home. That morning surf felt like the embodiment of travel and home.

I didn’t really catch any waves. My surfing was a lot of standing up and immediately nose-diving since I’ve never surfed on a longboard (or much at all), but it didn’t matter. Just sitting on the water with one friend next to me and one on the beach gave me that overwhelming feeling of peace and gratitude that I crave so dearly.

If I had to sum up the feelings that morning with one phrase, it’d be “everything is going to be okay.”

Where to Go Surfing in Sarasota

Now that you know you can surf in Sarasota, Florida, I’m going to tell you where to surf!

The most popular spots for Sarasota surfing are Lido Beach, just south of St. Armands Circle on Lido Key, and the North Jetty in Nokomis. While these spots are surfed year-round, hurricane season is prime time for swells. Siesta Key surfing isn’t as popular, but occasionally there are waves on Turtle Beach at the very south end of Siesta Key.

Have you ever surfed in Sarasota? Tell me where and how it went in the comments below!