Kiteboarders and wave watchers braced themselves against strong wind gusts at Jetty Park in Fort Pierce Wednesday ahead of Tropical Storm Nicole.
Rubens Tavora, 27, of Palm Beach Gardens, was one of a half-dozen kiteboarders catching air as people watched from the beach at the south side of the Fort Pierce Inlet — despite police officers blocking the parking lot with barricades.
“The average person is scared of hurricanes,” Tavora said, “whereas I’m always looking at the forecast for a tropical storm.”
Tavora usually kiteboards at Juno Beach, but those waves were double overhead and too big. Fort Pierce’s south jetty helps protect the waves from the storm’s north wind.
“This wave is a lot flatter,” Tavora said. “Not as much rip current.”
The rip current swept a surfer on an 8-foot-long lime green foam-top board away from a small crowd of people with their smartphones raised to take videos and photographs.
The surfer — Steve Ugley, 52, who moved to Fort Pierce from England — caught a wave back to shore. Then he walked toward the inlet and paddled back out to catch another wave.
The South Jetty, Jetty Park and Jetty Linear Park were closed to the public because of hazardous conditions expected as Tropical Storm Nicole approached the Treasure Coast.
All beach accesses along Seaway Drive and South Ocean Drive were closed. Street flooding was sporadic on Seaway Drive starting at Binney Drive and heading east.
The storm surge pushed waves, reaching 15 feet over both the south jetty and the north jetty, where Fort Pierce Inlet State Park was closed. Wing gusts were reaching over 30 mph at noon.
Before Tavora headed back out in a full wetsuit, he turned to say one last thing:
“Tell my mom I love her.”