Photo: Rob Cortinas | Spot: Surfside, TX | Date: May, 2014
It doesn’t come every day. Nor every week. But now and then, when low pressure systems form in the Gulf of Mexico, stoke builds in the surf shops and bars of tropical wax fly off the shelves.
Yes – in Texas, we have waves. Good waves…Kind of.
Photo: Scott Ellwood | Surfer: Mark Stolley | Spot: South Padre Island, TX | Date: September, 2005 (Hurricane Rita)
From Galveston to South Padre, you can find us nestled amongst a region better known for its burgers, fishing, football and beer. While the surf community in Texas may be small compared to the length of its coastline, it is hands-down the most tight-knit I have ever seen.
According to Galveston local Scott Toth, “Texas surfing is 90-degree brown water, seaweed, wind chop, horrific flat spells, on-shore winds, wicked cross currents, Portuguese man-o-wars, sea lice, hurricanes and the most stoked surfers in the world.”
Photo: Rob Henson | Surfer: Gabriel Prusmack | Spot: Galveston, TX | Date: August, 2014
Mariah Almond (Houston, TX) describes the predicament as “a twisted love affair.” Every Texas surfer is stuck in it. The relationship isn’t pretty. It’s disheartening to continually see 10-day “ankle to knee high short period wind swell” forecasts. Nonetheless, there’s a reason we stay.
Photo: Rob Cortinas | Surfer: Pato | Spot: Galveston, TX | Date: unknown
Damien McDonald, a native of Gold Coast, Australia, has been living in Texas for the better part of four years and is the owner of two surf shops in Galveston: Southern Spears and Texas Surf Co. “There are two things that really caught me by surprise when I moved here,” he explained. “One: the Texas surfing community is as strong as any surfing community in the world, period. Two: Texas produces a plethora of rippers!”
Photo: Scott Ellwood | Surfer: Morgan Falkner | Spot: South Padre Island, TX | Date: Sept., 2008 (Hurricane Ike)
While the Gulf Coast doesn’t consistently offer much, we take what we can get and make the best of it. The amount of progressive, above the lip surfing in the state is simply astounding. Any shortboarder in Texas knows how to drive hard down a line (because we sink if we don’t) which has helped us learn to find launch ramps even on the smallest days. The boards we ride are generally short, fat, and ugly, but we’re surprisingly good at getting them in the air!
Photo: Rob Henson | Surfer: Tyler Bacquet | Spot: Galveston, TX | Date: July, 2013
Now and then, we do get lucky. When conditions align, it even gets overhead. On any given swell, groms and grandpas alike share the peaks regardless of ability. According to 17-year-old California transplant Tyler Bacquet, “In Texas you see it all. Texas surf culture doesn’t take anything for granted. Knee high, 25 knots onshore, 15 guys out and everyone is absolutely frothing. Booties with boardshorts, boardshorts over wetsuits… No shame. No hate. All love. All acceptance. All stoke.”
Photo: Scott Ellwood | Surfer: Shane Wiggins | Spot: Corpus Christi, TX | Date: December, 2006
Perhaps it’s because we are surf-deprived the majority of the time, but Texans do get freakishly excited for each other in the water. I have seen entire lineups whoop and cheer when a logger pulls a cheater-five. In 44-year-old Bronson Hillard’s opinion, “There’s no better group of people to share the surf with than Texans. Texas surfers are like Aussies and Hawaiians blended together to form Redneck Aloha!” (Having lived in both Australia and Hawaii, I have absolutely no idea what he means by this… Nonetheless, the term was quickly embraced by Texas surfers on social media, so I guess we’ll go with it.)
Photo: Rob Henson | Surfers: (They’d kill me) | Spot: Galveston, TX | Date: August, 2014
Every surf community takes pride in its identity; it’s simply more enjoyable to paddle out when the lineup consists of familiar faces. Texas is unique in that the community is not limited to individual towns/breaks. It is quite common for surfers from Galveston, for example, to casually make the southerly jaunt to Corpus Christi (five-hours) or to South Padre Island (eight-hours) when a swell comes through, giving us the opportunity share the water (and a beer) with our distant neighbors. 18-year-old Joey Romano describes the community as, “One big family where background means nothing as long as you are out having a good time.” While this may sound simplistic, it’s entirely accurate. Even if you are not a native of the state, where you came from is irrelevant; if you have the motivation to paddle out to one of our breaks with a smile on your face and contribute a positive vibe, then you are one of us.
Photo: Scott Ellwood | Surfer: Nathan Floyd | Spot: Corpus Christi, TX | Date: March, 2013
In Texas, not a single ride down a line is taken for granted. We froth on waist-high windswell and tuck inside chocolate brown barrels (it counts as long as your head is inside, right?). Our water is warmer. Our community is closer. Our stoke is strong. We know who we are, and we don’t really care whether or not the outside world believes us when we try to explain that “there IS surf in Texas…kind of.”
Cheers to all of “y’all”!
Photo: Scott Ellwood | Surfer: Tasha Rivard (author) | Spot: Corpus Christi, TX | Date: November, 2013
Photo: Rob Henson | Surfer: Tyler Bacquet | Spot: Matagorda, TX |Date: December, 2013
Photo: Rob Henson | Surfer: Stephen Lazenby |Spot: Galveston, TX | Date: August, 2014
Photo: Scott Ellwood | Surfer: Justin Jalufka | Spot: Corpus Christi, TX | Date: December, 2006
Photo: Rob Henson | Surfer: Jarrad Williams | Spot: Galveston, TX | Date: May, 2014
Photo: Scott Ellwood | Surfer: Mark Stolley | Spot: Corpus Christi | Date: January, 2011
Photo: Rob Henson | Surfer: Connor Eck | Spot: Galveston, TX | Date: September, 2013
*Huge thanks to Rob Henson, Scott Ellwood, and Rob Cortinas for contributing photos!*