While most Americans, and frankly most Texans, do not correlate the Texas Gulf Coast with surfing, a small but mighty group of surfing enthusiasts living in oceanside towns keep the tradition of surfing alive despite the state’s less than stellar waves. Texas waves tend to be small, inconsistent and mushy. On any given day, however, with an infinite possibility of weather conditions butting up against 371 miles of coastline, the conditions can come together to produce waves as good as Southern California. Even when that doesn’t happen, surfing in Texas is still fun, good exercise and a great excuse to jump in the ocean. Here are the some of the best spots to hit the waves in Texas.
Photo courtesy of Galveston.com
The island of Galveston, just off the coast of Houston, is the northernmost spot in Texas where surfers can find rideable waves. An hour’s drive from one of the most populated cities in America means that the beaches stay crowded during the summer months. Unless there is a tropical storm or low pressure system moving through the area, waves are smaller in the summer, making it the perfect time for beginners working on popping up on the board. In general, waves along the northern part of the coast tend to be mushy and slow, making surfers work for it if they want to ride.
“If you can surf here, you can surf anywhere,” said William “Boog” Cram, owner of Ohana Surf & Skate. The surf shop is located across from one of the mainstays of Texas surfing for the past 60 years. The water near the Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier at 25th Street is full year round with surfers trying to catch one of the waves breaking off the pier. Structures like piers or rock jetties that protrude into the water develop sandbars. When a swell encounters the sandbars underwater it pushes upward to form a wave.
If Galveston is too crowded, beaches in nearby Surfside and Quintana just south of the island are fun for surfers of all levels. As one drives south down the Texas coast the water gets bluer, waves get stronger and beaches get less crowded.
Photo by Nan Palmero under Creative Commons license
One only needs to stop by the Texas Surf Museum to realize that the Texas surfing culture is alive and well in Corpus Christi. The free museum offers visitors a glimpse into the life of a surfer in the Lone Star state with displays of vintage surfboards, photos of local legends, snippets of surf films and vintage surf memorabilia.
Owner Brad Lomax, who has been surfing the Corpus Christi and nearby Port Aransas waves since the 1960s, also owns the Executive Surf Club next door. He created the surf-themed restaurant as a community hangout. “I wanted to create a vibe where everyone could come together—guys from the refinery, old ladies, surfers, everyone—and have a good time,” he said.
Traditionally one of the most popular surfing spots is Bob Hall Pier, but Hurricane Hanna severely damaged the pier in 2020. Eventually it will be demolished and rebuilt. Surfers hope the new pier will produce the same fast barrel waves that peel off the wooden structure. The surf is good at all stages of the tide and the waves here are good for short boards, mid-sizes and long boards. The only downfall is that, in addition to the often overcrowded summer beaches, jellyfish can damper a good surf day.
Photo by Articseahorse under Creative Commons license.
Right next door to Corpus Christi is Port Aransas or Port A as the locals call it. The chest-deep water and slow waves make it a great spot for parents to send kids to surf schools during summer months.
Surfers of all experience levels tend to gather at Horace Caldwell Pier. The regional hotspot is known for waves that are generally softer than you would find down farther south. Nevertheless they are fun to ride, especially when the tide is going out. The structure provides constant waves on each side of the pier. Surfers can also take a 10-minute ferry to San Jose Island. The smaller waves that break on the exposed beach are great for beginners. The uncrowded beaches make it a relaxing getaway from the masses during the height of summer.
South Padre Island
Photo courtesy of SoPadre.com
The best surf beaches in Texas sit three hours south of Corpus Christi along South Padre Island. The continental shelf drops sharply creating not only cleaner, bluer water, but also larger, more constant waves. South Padre Island Jetties near the south end of town is one of the best spots for surfers. The gentle waves are great for long boarding and hold up during hurricane swells.
With clean emerald-turquoise water and long peeling waves, Isla Blanca Beach Park might be the absolute best surfing beach in Texas. The east facing beach is exposed in nearly every swell direction producing the most consistent waves on the coast. Across the channel is the great winter surf spot of Boca Chica Beach. The beach break favors left handers here and the surf is good during all stages of the tide. Like Isla Blanca beach, it is unlikely to be crowded even when the surf is up.