Words and Photos by Chuck Turkington
Early in January, I ran into Frank Floyd and his crew of Texas rippers. Joining Nathan, Micah and J.R. was Jaime, formely of Sayulita but currently living on Kauai. This group of B.H.P. rippers are still borderline drinking age, but yet the beaches in Central Mexico are old stomping grounds for them. The surf was small when they hit up this spot, but they got plenty of shack time at a different beach for most of their trip. Having seen them surf overhead before, I only could only wish that there would have been some size in the water while they were here. Oh well…they rip the small kine too!
Three days of swell and three French rippers mingle with the locals, deep in the south of Texas. What started as a typical low-key, slightly obscure afternoon on the small Tex-Mex sandspit would suddenly change when three young travelers entered the water. Arthur Bourban(19) from Hossegor, Rudy Marechal(17) from Capbreton, and Marc Milienne(21) from Martinique all hail from France and all hell broke loose when these guys hit the waves. Continue reading Group of French surfers show up at South Padre.→
For such a disorganized spinner, Tropical Storm Alberto sure did kick up some corduroy lines. Mid-Gulf buoys were tapping the six foot mark at 11 seconds as the east swell marched toward the Texas coast. The swell came in on Monday, June 12th and would gradually fade to 3 foot at 10 seconds for the next two days. A weak low pressure system dipped down past the Lone Star State and briefly changed local winds to offshores, creating some early morning perfection on Tuesday.
If this is any sign of things to come, the answer to the question could very well be yes, get a semi-gun and start getting in shape. Some local surfers are keeping a bit of reserve, pointing out how it is not uncommon that the first couple of spinners can be responsible for the best surf of the whole season. Sometimes it just lines up better with stable early-summer weather patterns. Also, the threat of red tide grows with each hot summer day. Some of the later season storms can be almost too big, creating victory at sea conditions. One thing is certain, if mother nature is going to throw some summer lines at the Texas coast, they will be greeted anxiously by a waiting crowd.
A good longtime friend of mine, Steve Vineyard, and I took a trip to our favorite southern surf spot. Steve only had two weeks and then he had to head back to the “cold” southern Texas Winter on South Padre Island. But since I’ve become a beach bum in training, and photographer/writer, I had the resources to stay for a couple months. Enough time to soak in the sun and waves!
When we first arrived, surf was already decent size. Coming from South Texas, anything over chest high is “big”. Being that I was there to photograph the surfers, I spotted the talent rigth away. Aside from the usual local talent, the only standout was Dillon Horst, from San Luis de Obispo. Of course, I didn’t know his name when I snapped this shot, but I made it a point to find out the next day or two…
Thankfully, the red tide was mild and had only recently appeared. It wasn’t strong enough for a fish kill, at the time, but definetely worked it’s way into the sinuses after an hour. A larger problem , was that while this storm was brewing another seemingly endless summer of storm surf, the chance of Galveston taking a direct hit was sobering. Very few upper coast surfers were showing up for this swell. They were obviously busy moving their families from the path of this latest tropical monster. Things were quiet down here, except for the impact zone.
Thursday night, the still air was filled with the sound of bonecrushers rumbling toward shore. The hurricane was getting closer to us but had finally made a turn. It had been charging straight toward us for three days and even though the National Hurricane Center held strong on it making a turn toward Galveston, it took a lot of trust to believe that. Sure enough, the upper level steering winds took effect and the storm began it’s new track. Thse swell was already hitting all day thursday, and it would peak quickly, as they usually do, on friday. But when…exactly?
Friday morning starts shining on the horizon. Hurricane Rita has grown overnight into another chubasco on crack, and the people of Galveston have run to the hills. The winds are stiff from the NNW and not working with the waves out front. The air is hot and the red tide is loving it. A visit to Boca shows a much cleaner wave, but considerably smaller than the north side. It is breaking a few feet overhead, with an occasional long period set wave rolling in at DOH+. The wait for the sets is long, but eventually it starts getting shorter. Some photogs are working from the rocks, shooting Boca, and every fifteen minutes their small chunk of space gets smaller.
Around noon, the sets start to push into the channel and continue to increase in frequency. The outer rocks just disappear as each bump rolls in and pushes toward the bay. Once it gets into the cove, it hits the shallow bottom and jacks, heaving a thick lip to crash in the flats. As each wave gets bigger, the price of wiping out gets heavier. But even with a juicy wave grinding through the cove at almost DOH, somehow a few people still manage to drop in on each other. Pretty sketchy thing to do on a sizeable wave.
The remaining light of the day is filled with haze and mist. It’s almost like the red tide is starting to grow in the air. Breathing continues to get more difficult but the waves just keep coming in. The entire bottom of the cove is getting tickled and it stirs up a murky mess. It’s finally showing that there really is sand in just the right places because at this size all the sections of the wave are connecting. I shot one DOH set wave for the entire duration it broke clean and information from the camera shows 32 seconds between the first and last frame. Insane!
Sunset arrives and the day is over. The surf is still growing but the size will not be here by dawn the next day. Sometime during the night, the waves will peak at an unkown size and leave behind distinct markings in the parking lot from the surging water. It’ll still be almost head-high in the morning, but nothing like what we had just seen…