Photo by Grempz
Get Out Surfing
Texas Parks & Wildlife, to be published December 2016
The ocean can be a fickle beast when it comes to providing optimal waves to surf. Texas can’t claim the regular reef-break barrels of Hawaii or the crested-tsunami waves of California, but we’ve got determined surfers and — during winter surf season — waves that sometimes max out at more than 12 feet along certain sections of our 367 miles of coastline.
On some notable beaches worldwide, surfers hang up their boards at the sight of not-so-optimal waves. A few mushy waves, however, are enough to get a Texas surfer’s blood pumping, and winter is actually the best opportunity to find surf-able waves here. On calmer days, Texas enthusiasts got creative and surf the 3-mile-long wakes of oil tankers.
You’ll usually find surfers on Texas beaches from fall to late spring, when hurricanes and strong fronts push wind swells to shore. On almost any given day, the intensity may be low but the frequency of waves is among the highest in the country, placing Texas on the national roster of competitive surfing.
Try it for yourself and experience the thrill of the chase that stokes this state’s surf culture.
There are multiple ways to predict whether a particular day is going to yield good surf, including forecasts, tide tables, buoys, surf cams or calling a local surf shop.
Galveston: Flagship Pier, Surfside Beach Jetty, 51st Street
Matagorda: Matagorda Pier
Port Aransas: Horace Caldwell Pier, Port Aransas Jetty
Corpus Christi: Fish Pass, Packery Channel and Bob Hall Pier
South Padre Island: Isla Blanca Beach Park, Boca Chica Jetty, Port Mansfield Jetty
TEST YOUR SKILLS
A schedule of Texas competitive surfing events can be viewed on Texas Gulf Surfing Association’s website: www.surftgsa.org.
Available for rent at local surf shops:
Wetsuit (optional booties, gloves) for cold protection
Rashguard for warmer days
Ding repair kit
Texas Surf Camps offer personal and group lessons in Galveston, Port Aransas and Corpus Christi to prepare beginners for their first successful wave rip. Techniques include paddling and standing, predicting waves, assessing water conditions/dangers and life-saving etiquette. http://www.texassurfcamps.com
Surf to your level. Stick to waves that you can successfully maneuver. If you’re a beginner, paddle out only if you can swim back. Maintain a strong swim. On flat days, consider doing some stand-up paddleboarding to keep in shape.
Keep your distance. Don’t cut off or cross paths with other surfers when riding or paddling. Beginners should stay on small waves and out of the path of the big kahunas — both of you could get hurt by a wrong move.
Know the surf. Heed surf condition flags. Watch the surf before entering, ask locals about the surf conditions, and never swim near jetties. Always surf with a buddy.
Hands above your head. To avoid getting smacked by your board after a wipeout, wait three seconds before emerging to the surface with your hands protecting your head.