People who don’t surf often have a misconception that there’s not very good surf in Galveston. And it’s true that most 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. We get a strong on shore wind (from the water to the land) which brings in some choppy surf. It’s usually short period waves that may have some size but aren’t usually formed well for surfers. But it’s enough to keep you busy if you’re desperate. Then the front hits with an offshore wind. If the wind comes in soft and blows either directly offshore or from the north east it will clean up the surf. Once its good and lined up we’ll get some nice, clean, surfable swell. This past weekend had a great example that started with shortboardable waves and, as it got smaller, still was great for long boards and stand up paddleboards.
You may have noticed a bunch of short boarders lately in the area west of 61st street. Because the new sand has been placed there recently it hasn’t leveled all the way out yet. There’s a drop off where the water goes from deep to shallow maybe 20 yards from shore. This bottom topography causes the waves to break hard, which is good for short boards because it has some power to it. This won’t last but lots of surfers have been out there taking advantage of something that’s not normal for the upper Texas coast. The slope of the beach is directly related to the grain size of the sand. We have small grain size here which means the beach will naturally end up having a gradual slope and the sandbars in the area west of 61st will migrate out farther like they are elsewhere. But while it lasts the “beach break” is keeping many happy.
Another spot that is pretty interesting 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.