Nicole brings rough surf, deadly rip currents to Florida's east coast

Along Central Florida's beaches, waves up to 10 feet are already coming in as Nicole churns toward Florida. Waves between 15 and 20 feet are possible along Florida's coast through Thursday.

Tropical Storm Nicole is creating high surf along Florida's east coast, but the waves won't be worth surfing until possibly this weekend.

Nicole strengthened into a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday with 60 mph winds. The system is expected to continue to build up to hurricane status Wednesday, but the impacts of the storm are already being felt up and down the Florida coast.

Along Central Florida's beaches in Brevard and Volusia counties, waves up to 10 feet are already coming in Tuesday as the storm churns toward Florida.

Mike Watson, senior forecaster at Florida-based Surfline, said rough surf on Florida's Space Coast should deter surfers from wanting to take advantage of the bigger waves. 

Watson explained that as Nicole's winds come onshore, the effect is blown-out waves and rough surf.

"It's obviously not a good surf situation for pretty much 99% of the coast because the winds are really strong on shore," Watson said. "It makes the conditions really poor and choppy."


The FOX Forecast Center is predicting Nicole will bring up to 75 mph winds Wednesday night to areas along the coast and up to 40-mph gusts farther inland. 

With tropical-force winds extending 300 miles from Nicole's center, those winds will continue even after the storm has made landfall late Wednesday or Thursday morning, according to FOX Weather Hurricane Specialist Bryan Norcross.

Watson said Surfline had not seen many eager surfers in Florida trying to ride these Nicole-driven waves like what sometimes happens before a storm.

"You would spend more time trying to paddle and get out there, and then the current is really, really strong from north to south," Watson said. "The current would push you way down the beach very quickly."

Beach erosion is also a concern as these large waves can eat away at shorelines already impacted by Hurricane Ian.

Some coastal counties, including Flagler County, which experienced erosion from Ian, have closed beach access.

Rip currents turn deadly

When a tropical storm or hurricane is approaching the coast, that is no time to go swimming or even near the breaking waves on the beach. A high rip current risk remains in effect for coastal areas of Brevard and Volusia counties through at least Tuesday night. 

Watson said an elevated risk for rip currents would remain through Friday, adding even people walking on the beach should be aware of the powerful waves. 

"It kind of makes me nervous when I see young kids playing on the beach during this," Watson said. "The surge, the waves can run up, and it can knock you off your feet and pull you in sometimes and catch you off guard."


Strong rip currents in have already caused a death this week, according to Fernandina Beach Fire Department officials. A 40-year-old man attempting to help his daughter was swept away by rip currents and later died. 

The National Weather Service in Jacksonville has issued High Surf and High Rip Current Risk advisories until Friday evening. Up to 20-foot waves are possible.

Better surf forecast this weekend

For those hoping to benefit from the late-season storm, Florida could experience some better surfing conditions this weekend after Nicole has moved away from the Sunshine State.

Places like Sebastian Inlet, with a jetty or areas on the north side of a pier helping to block some wind, could have some more "user-friendly" surf by Saturday, Watson said.

How much the waves improve is still too early to forecast. Surf conditions will also depend on how much the wind and wave activity has moved around sandbars that usually support good waves. 

"Generally, a lot of times we see the sandbars move around in a spot that was good two weeks ago, may not be good after the storm passes because the sand has moved around," Watson said.

Later this weekend, Watson said, the New Jersey coast is another spot to watch for high waves that could clean up enough for good surfing conditions.