Surfing Hurricane Katrina

Chris Hoelscher warms up during the Sunday evening session.
Chris Hoelscher warms up during the Sunday evening session.

A late August storm has ended a long flat spell for South Padre Island. Unfortunately, this storm also destroyed New Orleans. It’s kind of difficult to write about how awesome the waves were when our nation is facing the worst natural disaster on record. Thoughts and prayers are with our Gulf Coast neighbors.

It’s almost ironic too, because I didn’t get very many shots of this storm. Sometimes a surf photographer surfs more than he photographs. I know others got some snapshots, so hopefully they will turn up. If you were there, you know all about it already. Big! And offshores to boot!!

The swell started showing Sunday, August 28th. The first morning session produced 5 foot with an offshore breeze. But by noon it was blasting from the north and blown out.

Surf the next day was BIG! Not only was the sizeable swell there, but the winds were perfect. A stiff offshore breeze was working for several hours throughout the morning. The surf looked best over at Boca Chica. Huge ocean swell was bombing the spoils on the other side and offshore winds swept up the face, throwing spray back toward the rising sun. Most surfers emptied out from the parking lot and groups of them began the journey to Boca. Waiting for them on the outside were long period set waves that jacked up with 15 foot faces.

The channel wasn’t working during the high tide at Dolphin Cove, but some clean reeling backs were visible over at Barracuda’s. Upon further investigation, I found out it was 4-5 foot over there and clean as can be. Probably the best I’ve ever seen it there. Unfortunately, I can’t paddle with my camera gear so no pics. By the time I returned to Dolphin Cove, the tide had dropped enough and it started breaking at the same size but much more inconsistent than the other side.

When I returned to check the surf out front, I ran into Miley and Rusty S.. They had just returned from surfing the outside jetty spoils and were visually excited. They were calling it 20 foot faces with stiff offshores out there. Padre hurricane bombs, graced with the offshores. Simply awesome…

Paul Moly, carving in the morning light.
Paul Moly, carving in the morning light.

Around mid afternoon, the winds became less favorable and began blowing out the waves. Winds shifted from WSW to N and quickly NE. It took a few more hours, but finally they clocked around to S and the waves began recovering a bit. Even with plenty of size in the water, it is always amazing how much the wind dictates the quality.

The next morning, Tuesday, the surf had dropped to waist high but again was meeting against offshores. Clean and green.