The photo above is our favorite throwback of First Peak.

Expert surfing photographer Jimmy Wilson took this shot back in First Peak’s glory days. Jimmy dug deep into his archives and sent us the digital proof to help us champion the First Peak Project. It’s a stellar, epic shot because it captured the unique man-made wedge that gave First Peak its name. If you look closely under the lip of the barrel, you’ll notice the smaller reflected wave. The intersection of this reflected wave and the next incident wave is the aquatic alchemy that causes the wave to peak. Coastal engineering calls this process wave-wave interaction. This picture exhibits wave-wave interaction exquisitely.

Eastern Surf Magazine originally published this image in a feature entitled Structural Damage (Eastern Surf Issue 130, August 2008).The feature article went on to exhibit a series of man-made waves up and down the East Coast. Of course, any article that focuses on man-made waves is going to get us amped. Moreover, it’s ironic to find First Peak in a feature with the title Structural Damage considering the present state of the wave today.

Two very fascinating narratives accompany the picture of First Peak. The first references Typhoon Lagoon, Ocean Dome, and the 1985 ASP event in Allentown Pennsylvania. The latter article accounts a professional coastal engineer’s observations of the worm reef that grows along the north jetty. He describes how the presence of worm reef can affect the quality of the surfing wave. We’ve transcribed the article’s narratives below so you can dive into some nostalgia with us.

Narrative from Structural Damage Top:

“While the fully functional wave pool remains the Holy Grail of man-made structures, numerous attempts at chlorinated perfection have come and gone. Orlando’s Typhoon Lagoon has closed down its private sessions until at least Spring 2009; the Ron Jon Surf Park has gone from an estimated opening date of 2005 to an indefinite halt on construction, all the while bearing widespread ridicule from the surfing community; and then the ASP event at Allentown, Pennsylvania’s, Dorney Park in 1985 still stands as one of the East Coast’s darkest competitive moments. Even the almost-perfect Ocean Dome in Japan closed its doors in 2007, much to the disappointment of the traveling pros who were just starting to warm up to the place. So until someone cracks the code and figures out how to maintain the world’s first viable surf pool, East Coasters will stick to their man-made structures – that are actually in the ocean.”

Eastern Surf Magazine


Photo by Jimmy Wilson
Original Structural Damage excerpt by Eastern Surf Magazine. Photo by Jimmy Wilson

Narrative from Structural Damage Bottom:

“One of the things that makes First Peak break the way it does is the fact that the north jetty of Sebastian Inlet is at an angle, where most jetties are built perpendicularly. After the wave reflects off that oblique jetty, it refracts and bends inwards. It’s that interaction of the reflected wave with the incidental wave that’s key. I was the consulting engineer at Sebastian Inlet, and one of the first things they invited me to do was walk underneath the north jetty to see the worm rock that grows there. As the worm rock grows, it fills in the voids underneath the jetty, raises the elevation of the rubble underneath, and increases reflection. When there’s less worm rock, more wave energy leaks through the jetty, and the reflection isn’t perfect. Although it’s hard to quantify, as more worm rock grows, it should increase the reflection and improve the wave.”

Dr. Bill Dally, Surf Break Engineering Sciences


Fast forward to today, over a decade since First Peak disappeared.

The juxtaposition of these two narratives portrayed alongside the deceased First Peak sparks some fascinating revelations. For starters, today we live in the age of surf pools. The new wave pool revolution signifies that our knowledge of surfing waves has evolved. Building man-made surfing waves are not only possible, but it’s happening. The second narrative reveals something even more profound. The quality of the surfing wave varied according to a biological response. The worm reef affected the characteristics of the surfing wave! Not only can we restore First Peak but we can biomechanically engineer an eco-friendly solution.

No picking up and putting down rocks already at Sebastian Inlet. No dumping tons of concrete or other material. No dredging. It’s all about growing worms.


We can regrow First Peak.

The world needs environmental stewardship. We need more methods and ideas that grow the economy while preserving the natural environment. Furthermore, we need ways to create more jobs at the same time. The worm reef at Sebastian Inlet leads by example. It shows us a way that Mother Nature is adapting to a man-made structure. Meanwhile, all over the world coral reefs are dying. Is someone or something trying to tell us something?

These two narratives give us clues to help put the First Peak puzzle together. Can we combine our new surfing science with our increasing demand for eco-sensitive habitat engineering, to revive a lost surfing resource? Finally, could this magazine article be the blueprint for creating the world’s first bio-mechanically enhanced surfing wave? It’s even written in black & white for us. η



Help us undo the damage.

Let us know what you think about the revelations we shared in the article Structural Damage Redux. Leave a comment below to share your revelations. Make sure your comment has some structure, and it doesn’t damage our comment policy.

  • colby silagy

    So can we put living rock on the pilings to make the refraction greater

    • That could be a solution too. Our goal is to find the easiest, most cost effective, and most eco-friendly solution to restore the wave reflection. Most people are of the consensus that we should grow more worm reef between the pilings, as worm reef is an indigenous marine invertebrate that already inhabits the north jetty.

      • colby silagy

        It also seems simple because worm reef already lives there, not sure how cost effective it is but i think it should at least be tested because it will only make the wave better you cant make it worse then it already is

        • Testing is key. The huge advantage of this solution is that we can test it. We can install a temporary solution, tune it and perfect it. Of course our first go would be based on rigorous engineering work, but I’m sure overtime we make the wave better and better.

          And you’re right. We’re definitely not going to make the wave any worse than it already is; First Peak doesn’t exist anymore!

          • colby silagy

            How serious is the project, have you contacted the park about the whole idea of recreating the wave, and how soon will it be till something is actually gonna be tested

          • The project is very serious and yes, we have talked many times to Sebastian Inlet’s management team. The conversations have been positive and encouraging. However, before we go any further we need overwhelming public support and that includes donations. The project will only succeed if the people show that they want it.

          • colby silagy

            Ok, how are you guys as a project going to get the publics attention, because i would love to see a rebulit wave, and how could i help get public attention