Cocoa Beach

May 04, 2014  •  6 Comments

This post is unusual for me in that it is more personal and includes many more "people pictures", snapshots, and artsy renditions of images than I usually put into my Nature-Photography-oriented Blog. But, that's the nature of this story, and the dominant "fauna" of this part of Florida. So, like me, go with the flow and Enjoy!


From the surfing days of my youth, Cocoa Beach has been a mecca-like destination. It was the hottest surfing site in Florida (and, even back then, home to a small surf shop called Ron Jon).  When my brother, Jay and his family later moved to Merritt Island (16 years ago), my Mom decided to try to find a condo nearby (Dad had his doubts).  She won that one (and eventually Dad agreed that it was a smart investment)... and "Mom's Cocoa condo" became THE destination for our annual family reunions... as well as plenty of less organized gatherings.  As a result, I "discovered" the wealth of natural beauty and wildlife in the area.  Last month, we had our annual family reunion at "Mom's"... sadly, without her.  She died last August. Everyone in the family was there, including the two new babies, Theodore and Liv: Dad's first great grandchildren. This month's post - about my photographic escapades around Cocoa Beach family gatherings - is dedicated to Mom, who was a pretty outstanding Force of Nature all herself.  Here's Mom with her four kids, Jay, me, Steve, and Laura -- Mother's Day, a year ago.


We all missed Mom a lot!  She was definitely there in spirit and memories.


And we stuck by her tried-and-true family traditions (Laura beautifully taking up most of Mom's duties!) through the weekend and had a great reunion. Dad was thrilled to be surrounded by his clan and to meet his newest family members.

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(Oh, and, as an aside, Dad is still a talented and prolific painter!  Here's a self-portrait, one of my favorites from years ago.)


Surfing takes a backseat for us in Cocoa these days, though there are still active surfers in the family, led by my brother Steve. And the newbies among us get free lessons from him!

Steve_SurfingSteve_Surfing Holly_SurfingHolly_Surfing Hendrik_SurfingHendrik_Surfing

And Ron Jon is now a tourist mecca - sort of a cross between a giant surf-themed department store and Disney World, complete with competing copycats on surrounding properties.  Sheesh. Sure ain't the sleepy village and pristine beach of the 1960s. 

Ron_JonRon_Jon High-steppin_SkimboarderHigh-steppin_Skimboarder Skimboarders_Beach_InkblotSkimboarders_Beach_Inkblot Cocoa_Beach_&_WavesCocoa_Beach_&_Waves Tourist_Scene_Cocoa_Beach_InkblotTourist_Scene_Cocoa_Beach_Inkblot

But nature still thrives in the midst of the umbrellas, lounge chairs, and sunburned humans on the beach.  Flocks of seabirds -terns, gulls, and pelicans - rest on more sparsely populated parts of the beach.  And even shorebirds - sandpipers, plovers, skimmers, herons, and ibis - eke out a living along the "urbanized" shore.

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Pelicans ride the venturi-effect winds that funnel between the condos, while big rollers sometime come roaring in, row after row, from the deep Atlantic.  The big sky afforded by the wide flat ocean horizon offers spectacular vistas of clouds and storms, seas and sunrises.  This is what Mom loved most: watching the ocean and sky panoramas slowly play out across her condo's "widescreen" view.

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Watching the birds fly by... military whirlybirds, ultralights, stunt planes, low fliers with streaming ads, and... pelicans.  It's a happening place. (Here are two shots made moments apart from Mom's balcony, and merged into one double exposure: "Military Escort".)


We have enjoyed other shows from Mom's balcony from time to time, like launching of the space shuttle and Fourth of July fireworks!



Mom always kept a flag flying.  Here's another double exposure from the balcony.


I go out early on the beach most every morning, where I can see the sun come up and find what has rolled into shore during the night...

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One such morning, a seagull flew past with a "juicy crab" in its beak... at least that's how I initially read it...


But in split-second processing, my brain said, "Not quite right", and I found myself at full run, screaming and waving my hands at the gull before I knew what was happening. I succeeded in freaking out the gull enough that the "crab" slipped out of its grip and fell to the shallow water. The bird made a tight circle to recover its breakfast, but I was upon it first... a tiny hatchling loggerhead sea turtle, still clinging to life...


After a rest and some warming, the little one seemed to recover enough to want to try again.  (Most are doomed to predation.)  I made photos as it made its way down the beach and into the surf. But I could see that the surf was too strong that day, as the turtle was tumbled and battered and left upon the beach again and again. I asked a passerby to watch my camera and clothes as I swam the baby out beyond the breakers.  Maybe a thread of hope?

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Luckily for us, right next door to Mom's place is the "Wakulla Suites", an old-fashioned family motel with amazing tropical gardens in its courtyard. Crystal and I and our kids always stay there - we love that we can all fit into one multi-bedroom suite with a full kitchen... this year SEVEN of us, including 2 month old Liv.  


We don't use the motel's common grounds much (except the beach), but I never miss the opportunity to ogle the beautiful flora at the Wakulla (something I still miss from my South Florida childhood). 

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It was my original intention to include the many nearby nature sites Crystal and I have frequented - Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Viera Wetlands, Canaveral National Seashore, Indian River, St. Johns River, and more... but I found I had too many shots from the immediate surrounds. And these other sites really represent another photo story of Florida. So we venture only as far as my brother-and-family's place at nearby Merritt Island in this post. 

Luck over the Banana RiverLuck over the Banana RiverRainbow at Merritt Island, FL SunfishSunfish

Jay still has the old Sunfish we grew up sailing in Biscayne Bay. So many happy Florida memories. Sail on, Nancye Moynahan!


One final note, dear readers: for those of you in the Tallahassee area, please mark FRIDAY JUNE 6, 2014 on your calendars. That evening, I will be having an opening reception showing a wide array of my photographs in the beautifully-restored Hays-Hood House at 906 East Park Avenue, home of Florida Trust for Historic Preservation. My work (lots of it!) will be on sale there, with part of the proceeds going to benefit Florida Trust.  Here's more information:  I hope to see you there!






John Hardt(non-registered)
David - What a wonderful tribute to your mom! I am sorry, I did not know she had died. But, these beautiful photos, with her surrounded by family, are a great memorial for her. Things change, but some things do not. The technology is better, of course, but the sensitivity to nature and people in the photos is the same as I remember you having in college 40 years ago.

David, you make me very proud t0 be your father! You recognize the true values and beauty in our lives. I love you.
Linda Young(non-registered)
David - that was such a treat to read and see. Your mother would love it! Our mothers kind of do the same thing for us that you did for the baby turtle. They keep us from the jaws of death, watch us make our best efforts to succeed and then sometimes carry us out past the breakers where we will have a better chance in life. Your mother sounds like she was a very special woman.
Rebecca Miller(non-registered)
Thanks for sharing, David. Love the scenes of Florida, but also loved seeing a picture of your new granddaughter and the whole family. And you ever look like your father!
what a lovely tribute to your mom, David! loved seing the photos of your dad with the babies and the story of the rescue of the little turtle put a lump in my throat. strange, isn't it, and glorious how such a small bit of a creature can touch us so deeply. i still remember a baby turtle i kept safe until it made it past the breakers some 15 years ago... thank you for sharing David
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