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Kustom

Stormrider Guide to surfing Texas

The Gulf of Mexico, USA, NORTH AMERICA


Bob Hall Pier, Corpus Christi, James Metyko

Summary

+ Warm water - Small, short lived swells
+ Some uncrowded breaks - Rare offshore winds
+ Friendly locals - Difficult barrier island access
+ Nice climate - Spring break crowds

The Texas coastline accounts for a good proportion of the USA’s beaches on the massive Gulf of Mexico, referred to by surfers as the Third Coast. The state may not be first choice when planning a USA surf trip, but its continuous string of barrier islands receive regular windswell and occasional hurricane swell from the Gulf. There are numerous passes, inlets, piers and jetties, providing the focus for waves along the endless, featureless strands. The intracoastal waterway creates access difficulties away from the bridges and ferries, but 4WDs are permitted on many of the public beaches.

When to Go

Weekly frontal activity brings several days of strong onshore NE-SE winds that can build surf up to the 4-6ft range, but the following W-N offshore winds diminishes the size quickly. Summer is usually flat and although the hurricane season stretches from Jun to Nov, Sept and Oct are more likely to produce storms that cross into the Gulf from the Caribbean. Tidal range is minimal but can affect the strength of the currents at inlets and passes.

Surf Spots

Meacom’s mile-long pier was pulled down in 2009 and the Bolivar surf scene has drifted south to average peaks along Crystal Beach. Galveston Island has stable sandbars at Flagship Pier and the adjacent jetties, attracting longboard crowds unless the spot is overloaded by a really large swell. 37th Street and 61st Street stand out as the best option for shortboarders since good sandbanks usually form north of the jetties. With the right conditions, peaks appear anywhere along the extensive seawall spreading the crowds. Octagon is a bit more consistent than Galveston, and the beachbreaks to the north, may yield a faster, hollower wave. On large S, even SW swells, Surfside Jetty is the place to be since it’s possible to jump from the end of the jetty into longer cleaner lines as they wrap in. SW wind protection is a rare bonus. With a large E swell, action shifts to Quintana, an otherwise mushy break that finds power at size. The Colorado River inlet channel focuses all swell onto shallow sandbars at Matagorda forming hard-breaking beachies to the north of the pier or beside the jetties on both sides of the rivermouth. All get classic with a decent swell and any N wind. Getting to San Jose Island requires a quick boat or ferry ride, or long dangerous paddle. Soft triangular bars can be cleanish in S-SW wind and a strong SE swell. In Port Aransas, the Horace Caldwell Pier peaks up on either side, showing its best on a E-SE swell at mid tide. The silted up Fish Pass Jetties have both mushy and sucky waves with wind and current protection. The old broken J.P. Luby pier has been replaced by a long jetty at the Packery Channel, protecting good rolling peaks from S winds on all tides and swells. Bob Hall Pier is the most crowded, competitive surf spot in Corpus Christi, thanks to stable, shallow sandbars on both sides of the pier, that receive the full gamut of swells at all tides in all winds, producing punchier waves with steep drops and fast walls. Port Mansfield Jetties are isolated so crowds are minimal for some of the longest, lined-up waves in the state. More accessible are the Brazos Santiago Pass breaks located close to Port Isabel. Pavilion beachbreak gets classic, as powerful, hollow walls hold shape on the north side of the jetty. Best on E to SE swells, while the south side at Boca Chica prefers some N to get the lefts running down the beach. As with most Texan passes, in-between the two jetties there are a couple of quality waves that only break on the biggest swells when the beaches are closed out.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell S -S S -SE S -SE S -SE S -SE S -S
swell size (ft) 3 2-3 2 1-2 3 3-4
consistency (%) 40 35 30 20 50 40
dominant wind N -S N -S E -S E -S NE -SE N -S
average force F4 F4 F4 F3-F4 F4 F4
consistency (%) 84 81 84 80 67 86
water temp (C) 18 19 24 27 26 21
wetsuit 3/2 3/2 boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts springsuit

Travel Information

Weather
Influenced by continental systems and the warm Gulf of Mexico Texas is constantly switching between periods of settled and unstable weather. South Padre Island enjoys a sub-tropical environment with mild dry winters, and warm breezy summers. Winters are usually mild averaging 18ºC (65°F) and 28ºC (82°F) in summer. Night temperatures are usually much cooler, but very rarely does the temperature drop to freezing. Hurricanes strike Texas once every 3 years on average. Water is warm enough to trunk it all summer long, but winter requires a 3/2 full suit.

Lodging and Food
A huge spring break hotel capacity ensures good deals the rest of the year. In SPI try La Quinta ($88/dble) or Tiki Condominiums ($100/dble). In Galveston, the Flagship on the pier gave its name to one of the best breaks, but got damaged and demolished. Eat at the Surf Club in Corpus Christi or the pier house next to Horace Caldwell Pier.

Nature and Culture
Beach is the big attraction here, plus a variety of amusement parks. Schlitterbahn Water Park has a standing wave you can bodyboard on, while Nland Surf Park has opened in Austin showcasing the Wavegarden technology.