G-Town Surfing

People who don’t surf often have a misconception that there’s not very good surf in Galveston. And it’s true that on many days if you drive down the seawall and look out to the Gulf there’s not much in the way of waves. But if you know a few tricks and secret spots, there’s more than enough surf to keep even the most diehard surfer happy.

This is a great time of year for surfers. Once the fronts start rolling in periodically in the Fall and the Spring, there’s a pattern to it. First, we get a strong on shore wind which brings in some choppy surf. It’s usually short period waves that may have some size but aren’t great for surfing. But it’s enough to get a rush if you’re game and have a good fitness level. Then, the front hits with an offshore wind. If the wind comes in soft and blows either directly offshore or from the northeast, it will clean up the surf. Once its good and lined up we’ll get nice, clean, surfable swell. The past couple of weeks had we’ve had a couple of frontal systems that were good examples. They started with short-boardable waves and, as it got smaller, still was great for long boards, stand-up paddleboards, and foils.

One not so secret local spot that is pretty extraordinary is the area on the east end of the island, in the ship channel. Typically, this doesn’t have ridable waves, but when the conditions are just right it can be world class, with freight train tubes 100 yards long. Its ridable maybe a couple times a year for those that are there at exactly the right time, but only gets really good once every couple of years. Conditions have to be extremely rough on the beachfront- usually white water to the horizon with a west to east current. Huge waves refract around the south jetty and end up hitting the “beach” at an angle. Its often only good for a couple of hours, so only the most dialed in birds get the worm. That’s why “surfers isle” is so elusive and has reached mythic proportions in the surf community.

After some 47 years of surfing, I think the trick to enjoying surfing in Galveston is to embrace what it is. There are a number of classic surfing days here each year, but there’s a lot of days that you have to work for it. This means maintaining a high level of fitness for both those big, nasty days and for those tiny days where you work for every wave.  You’ll want an array of wetsuits for the incredibly variable water temperature that shallow Gulf waters are known for. And you’ll want a diverse quiver of boards that definitely includes either a longboard or a stand-up paddleboard for the tiny days.

But mostly you need a good attitude. One wave makes the session a success, if you appreciate the gifts our beach and ocean have to offer.