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at South Padre Island!
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Clayton's Pier South Padre Island... coming soon!! story
NLand Surf Park!! Get surf-stoked Texas! The world's largest and best surf park to open in Austin Texas spring 2016! Built by Wavegarden. Click here to sign up for newsletter, construction pics and videos, job openings and more.
World Surf League - It's ON!! Watch the world's best pro surferslive!
BIG CHANGES COMING TO ISLA BLANCA BEACH PARK!! SpaceX launches from Boca Chica beginning in 2017, with Isla Blanca being the prime viewing area (your surfboard might be the best and closest view). Cameron County is developing plans to build many new projects and facilities at Isla Blanca. We will post the SpaceX launch schedule as soon as it becomes available.
WSL World Tour 2016
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Photo slideshow featuring Port Mansfield
New Surf Spot on South Padre Island - coming soon?
known as the best surf in Texas, South Padre Island
has the biggest, most powerful, most consistent and
best shaped waves by far than anywhere else on the Texas
Gulf Coast (***see below!). Fun surf year-round, with
clear water and lots of empty waves make South Padre
the #1 surfing destination for Texas surfers. If you want to catch the best and biggest surf in Texas here at
South Padre Island, Spadre.com live surf cams and updated
surf report gives you the up-to-the-minute report on
conditions, and surf outlook for 3-5 days out.
It's a mathematical fact that South Padre Island
has MORE surf than Hawaii, and probably anywhere
in the world! Here's why... our waves are short interval
swells with an average 6-8 second period between waves,
compared with Pacific Ocean waves that average 15 second
interval or more. Sets of waves come very rapidly as well,
as frequent as every 1-2 minutes, compared to 5-15 minutes
or more in ocean swells which travel much further therefore
are spaced much further apart. So, in a day, we may see
several thousand or more set waves breaking versus only
a few hundred in Mexico, California or Hawaii... not to mention the fact that
there are less surfers here than probably anywhere in the
South Padre Island
Listed below are the 10 most popular breaks, with pictures
on how and when they break best. Wind and tides have
major effects on the surf conditions, check Spadre.com's
live surf cam, report and forecast before you come so
you'll know just when and where to surf, as conditions
change frequently. Getting here when its good is up
Blanca Beach Park - The Jetties on the
south end of the Island is home to the premiere surfing wave
of the Texas Gulf Coast, with its clear clean emerald-turquoise
water and long peeling waves. Deep water just offshore, and
east facing beach exposed to any nearly any swell direction
makes it by far the most consistent wave on the coast. The
first parking lot as you drive up to the beach is the gathering
place of Texas surfers. The "inside" sandbar is
less than a hundred yards from shore with fast lined up waves,
it can hold surf up to 8-10'. The outside sandbar starts to
break when waves reach 6-8' and it is not uncommon to see
12-15' surf or bigger in tropical storms. Paddle outs can
be rather difficult on bigger days. Best on E or SE swells,
wind from the SE to S is common and good, SW to W wind is
offshore and perfect. Take a right on Park Road 100 immediately
after crossing the Queen Isabella Memorial Causeway, entry
to Isla Blanca Beach Park is $4/vehicle/day or annual passes
are available for $38. Map of
Isla Blanca Beach Park
2) Second Lot - Just
a few hundred yards further north from the jetty, the second
parking lot (Second Lot) is best on Southerly swells that
miss the jetty area. A fast-breaking wave, can get nice and
hollow with offshore winds. Subject to longshore currents.
3) Dolphin Cove - A legendary big wave spot located inside the channel
on the Padre side, a clean powerful left that only appears
on the biggest of swells, very rare. Paddle out from small
sandy beach on the bay side of Dolphin Cove restaurant, it
is very dangerous to attempt to jump off the jetty into the
channel. Also, the jetties are heavily infested with urchins,
climbing onto the rocks can be a very painful experience! Be
aware of extremely strong currents during high surf.
4) Barracuda Cove - Also located inside the
channel on the Boca Chica side, this long peeling right has
a powerful shorebreak as well. Breaks more consistently now
on big E to NE swells, the sandbar is becoming better formed
due to recent tropical storms. Seas must be 12' or more, and
the tide must be outgoing for it to turn on. You can paddle
across the channel to surf it but the currents in the channel
can be extreme.
5) Boca Chica - Across the channel, the south jetty at Boca Chica Beach is
mainly a winter surf spot, also handles tropical storm and
hurricane surf very well. A 1 hour, 45 mile drive through
Brownsville and back up the beach. Go back over the bridge,
turn left at Walmart on Hwy 48 then left on 511 at Port of
Brownsville, then left on Hwy 4 to the beach, turn left and
drive on the sand for 5 miles. It is much faster to paddle
across the channel but the swift currents in the channel can
take you for a ride! The inside is best on medium size swells
and incoming tide, outside can get very big with an easy paddle
out next to the jetty. Long, long lined up lefts and often
clean bowling rights near the jetty. Best on N, NE or E swells.
NW to N winds are best.
6) Town Beachbreaks - There are many free public beach access points
along the stretch of high-rise hotels and condos on South
Padre Island, leading to miles of unsurfed powerful beachbreak
sandbars. Drift sessions are the call as longshore currents
can be strong. Offshore winds can turn these town beachbreaks
into gaping board-snapping tubes with only you and your friends
out. Definitely worth a check on most swells. Good on most
swell directions, but offshore winds from the NW, W or SW
are best. The beachbreak in front of
the Tiki is currently the best.
Port Mansfield Jetties:
A completely undeveloped secluded beach nearly
30 miles north, (although the pristine beauty is heavily
trashed by disgusting disrespectful local fishermen, beware
of thousands of broken beer bottles. Take Fish - Leave Trash
is their motto.) with two jetties and a small boat channel
dividing South Padre Island from the Padre Island National
Seashore, the channel cuts across the Laguna Madre to the
town of Port Mansfield. There are no roads, no facilities,
it can only be reached by 4-wheel drive on the sand or by
boat up the Laguna Madre or from the village of Port Mansfield.
There is safe anchorage just inside the channel. One of the
last places in the U.S. where you can find undeveloped beach,
huge sand dunes and quality surf with noone for miles, a fine
destination for a surfari. Bring a shovel, water, food and
anything else you might need.
Dunes - Driving north up the beach towards Port
Mansfield jetties you will pass some of the largest sand dunes
on the coast, approximately 12 miles from the last beach access
road. Some of these dunes are very close to the water's edge
and have an obvious effect on the beach contour and sandbars.
This area can be the biggest surf around on small days, and
some of the hollowest tubes, keep a close eye on the surf
as you are on the way, if it looks good... its always better
than it looks!
Jetty - Solitude and perfection. One of Texas'
great surfing secrets, the north jetty is an excellent surf
spot from small to well overhead. Long lined up rights with
an easy paddle out next to the jetty. Best on E or SE swells
with SE, S or SW wind. N or NE wind makes for choppy conditions.
More recent pictures: 12
Jetty - A much shorter jetty than the north side
due to accretion of the beach, a fun hollow right and long
left peels of the end of the jetty with a short easy paddle
out next to the rocks. Best on small to medium
size winter days with N, NE or
E swells and N to NW wind. On big north swells it will be
closed out, go to Boca Chica. Picture
10) Mansfield Channel - Few people know, but now you do... the Mansfield
channel is breaking better than it ever has! Recent tropical
storms have caused large amounts of sand to shift into the
channel, and it now breaks very consistently. A very long
peeling wave, best for longboards but can get powerful on
bigger swells. Paddle in and out from the small sand cove
just inside the jetty, or jump off the jetty. Check the current,
it is usually moving quickly either in or out with the tide,
best to catch it on a standing tide. Best on E to NE swells
with N to NW wind. Sharks.
surf in Texas varies in form and consistency with the
Summer - Summer
is the least consistent time of year for surf, but there
are fun playful waves nearly every day that are great
for beginners. June is typically fairly consistent month
for surf with strong, hot S to SE winds. Air temps on
the Island are usually in the 90's, with water temps very
comfortable near 80. The surf tends to be small from July
through August, except for the occasional tropical storm
or hurricane which can create really incredible surf.
The water temperatures at South Padre stay a few degrees
cooler than the upper coast due to the deep water just
offshore, but the sun and sand can get blistering hot.
Fall - Fall
can be the best season of the year for consistent, warm
surf. September and October are
the peak of hurricane season, and early cool fronts begin
making their way down by October. A springsuit or vest
may be needed after a cool front, fullsuits usually aren't
needed until December.
Winter - South
Padre has fairly mild winters, with a few arctic blasts
each winter. A full collection of wetsuits may be needed
to take advantage of the powerful winter surf, but many
days are also warm and sunny. Winter swells are often
much bigger than the rest of the year.
Spring - As
the days warm, strong south winds return with consistent
spring swells. Coastal fog is common due to the cool water
and warm air. Don't forget, South Padre Island is a major
spring break destination with massive crowds and hotels
completely booked during most of March.
Water Temperature Average
at South Padre Island
water temps can fluctuate from these averages by 3-5
degrees or more.
- One of the best surf indicators are the many National
Data Buoy Center buoys offshore in the Gulf of Mexico
that are accessible on the internet and by weather-radio.
The hourly data obtained from these buoys is amazing,
windswell and groundswell are separated into charts with
wave interval, direction, sea surface temps, barometric
pressure and wind speed and direction. Learn to "read"
the buoy data charts and you'll be on top of every swell.
Tides - The tide has a fairly major effect
on wave quality as well. A moving tide, either incoming
or outgoing is usually best. The tide range, or distance
between high and low, is usually only 1-2 feet on the
Texas coast. Always check the tides when you are planning
your day at the beach. Today's
the Right Surfboard
Having the right board for the conditions and for your ability
will make the difference in whether you have an enjoyable
session or don't catch any waves at all. Start out on a longboard
thick enough to float you so that you can paddle out comfortably.
Remember, if you can't catch waves you aren't having any fun,
so consider a larger board regardless of what looks cool.
As your skills progress you can move down to shorter boards,
but most days in Texas are better suited for fuller template
shapes, meaning thicker longer and wider. Softboards are the
best choice for kids, they are safe and easy to learn on.
If you have any questions or need assistance in picking the
right surfboard for you, feel free to
Along with your surfboard you'll need a few other essentials:
Leash - get one the same length as your
board, but don't substitute your leash for swimming ability.
Extra fins - try to get a board with removable
fins, you can drastically alter the performance of your
board to fit the surf conditions or your surfing style by
either moving or changing fins.
Board Bag - Keep your board out of the sun when
you arenot riding it by using either or
board sock or padded travel bag.
Racks - hard racks are more expensive than soft
racks but much stronger and dependable, make sure they are
Wax - before every session you'll need to wax your
board, or use a wax comb to roughen your existing coat.
There are several different formulas of wax to be used in
different water temperatures, make sure you have the right
Sunscreen - Summer or winter you should always
use waterproof total sunblock.Skin cancer
Wetsuits - If you want to take advantage of the
best surf, which often is in the winter, you'll need to
invest in a wetsuit. A lycra rashguard is good for keeping
the sun off your shoulders and back. A springsuit for fall
and spring days, and a fullsuit with booties are necessary
in the mid-winter. A neoprene hood is a big help in keeping
warm, since most heat is lost through your head from wind
Ding Repair- If you get a ding in your
board you should fix it before surfing or water will enter
the board. There are new simple to use sun-cure repair resins
and puttys that cure in just a few minutes, you can even
do a repair on the beach!. Simply dry the board, sand the
ding area lightly, apply the resin (in the shade) and set
in the sun to cure. Sand with 80 grit (rough), then 220
grit (fine) sandpaper, and paddle back out!
For Surfers at South Padre Island
Surfers need to be aware of the surf conditions
and related currents. ALWAYS take a few minutes
before you paddle out to study the waves, noting where the
best waves are breaking, and the strength and direction
of the rip and longshore currents. South Padre Island recently started a new Beach Patrol program in 2009. Although there are not lifeguard towers (yet) the beach patrol is trained to respond to swimmers in distress with jet-skis, rescue board or rescue swimers. Many rescues are performed by local surfers. The
most common surfing injuries are from surfers trying to
jump off the jetty, or from being struck by your own surfboard.
Also on big surf days, beware of the strong rip current
next to the jetty. Before
you jump into the waves, take a few minutes to read this
important water safety information and discuss it with your
family and friends. The surf you've come here to enjoy is
irresistibly beautiful and enjoyable, yet powerful and dangerous
and must be respected.
Safety & Etiquette:
THREE SECOND RULE - When
you fall off your board, your first instinct is to immediately
pop up for a breath of air... if you do, your board is
probably going to come down and smack you on your head,
so STAY UNDER WATER FOR 3 SECONDS, AND COME UP WITH YOUR
HANDS PROTECTING YOUR HEAD!! Its not a matter of if your surfboard is going to hit you, its
a matter of when and how hard, so remember the 3-second
rule, it can save your life.
2) JETTY RULE - Never
jump off the jetty. A slight miscalculation
on your jump and you and your board are both gonna have
a really bad day, but more likely you will get washed
off the jetty by a wave (see pictures below). If
you can't paddle out you don't belong out, you
gotta pay your dues. There is also a dangerous rip current
next to the jetty during high surf that can sweep you
out to sea. "I had a pretty bad surfing accident, broke some
bones in my back / neck. After seeing several surgeons
i was told never to surf again , too big of a risk of
becoming paralyzed if I had anymore accidents. I was slammed
into the jetties and broke some bones on the leftside
of the mid section of back , as well I suffered compression
fractures to the C-7 , C-6 vertibraes to right side of
Check out these pictures of surfers getting washed off
the jetty. 1234567
3) DON'T DROP IN! - One person per wave, look both
ways before you take off.
4) KNOW BEFORE YOU GO - ALWAYS take a few minutes
to study the waves before you paddle out. If you are new
to the break, or anywhere you may travel to surf, ask
a local surfer or lifeguard about the conditions BEFORE
you paddleout, you may save yourself from an embarrassing
or dangerous situation.Avoid the MULLET
SYNDROME, don't paddle out straight into a pack
of surfers, if you take a few minutes to study the waves
you'll see that most often there are better waves breaking
nearby with noone on it!
5) SWIMMING RULE - Don't paddle out further than you
can swim back in. Eventually your leash will break or
come off. If you really want to improve your surfing and
paddling, spend some time in a pool doing laps on flat
days, or in the ocean.
6) SURFBOARD CONTROL - You are responsible if your
surfboard hits another board or surfer, always maintain
7)SMILE - If you aren't
enjoying your session go home, noone else wants to hear
8) SHUT UP AND SURF - nothing is more
annoying than a loudmouth in the lineup. You should focus
entirely on getting into the rhythm of the swell. Save
the yapping for the chatrooms, parking lot or night club,
noone wants to hear it in the water. Hooting for good
rides and friendly conversation is great but even then
you'll find yourself out of position and the best waves
either breaking on your head or watching everyone else
9) HURRICANE SURF - The surf at South
Padre Island can get very big during hurricanes reaching
heights of 20-30'. Its always much bigger than it looks,
and your board and your leash is probably not right for
Most importantly though, few if any surfers have the swimming
ability required to make it to the beach in 20' waves
from 3/4 mile offshore. Remember too that if you need
rescued you are likely to be headlines in the morning
paper, there are no lifeguards here. If you break your
leash and are forced to swim in, you will likely panic
and swim for the jetty where your only hope of surviving
means a thorough thrashing on the rocks. Rip currents
are extreme during storm swells, even the best swimmers
are at risk. Jetty jumping is for kooks, if you can't paddle out AND swim back in, you
don't belong out.
10)RIP CURRENTS - You
better know where they are before you ever enter the ocean
anywhere. Ask a knowledgeable local. Use the rip to your
advantage. Remember at South Padre and anywhere there
is a jetty, pier or reef there will be rip currents, actually
anywhere you find waves there will be rip currents. The
rip by the jetty here is a powerful river flowing out
to sea, the worst place to be if you are in trouble. "Swim
to the side to stay alive."
the rocks are wet from waves, DO NOT walk any further!
Your Surfboard - The most dangerous thing
about surfing is your own surfboard. You can be seriously
injured or killed from being struck by your board.
Practice the "3-second rule", it may save
Jetties - Located
at the southern tip of the island in Isla Blanca Park,
the jetties are not designed for public access, although
it is allowed. Neverjump off the jetty. Many surfers and their
boards are swept off the rocks and injured while attempting
to jump off the jetty into the surf. Being washed
up and down barnacle encrusted - urchin infested granite
boulders is humiliating at best. If you can't paddle
out, you shouldn't be out, you will likely find yourself
in a situation that you can't handle, or swept out
to sea in the strong rip next to the jetty.
Rip Currents - The rip current you
need to be concerned about as a surfer is located
next to the jetty. This rip current is the strongest
and most dangerous on the entire Texas coast, and
on big days it can suck you out to the end of the
jetty into the "pit" where the biggest waves
will break, and likely wash you back onto the rocks. If
you get caught in the rip, simply remain
calm and swim or paddle to the side away from the
jetty and the surf will push you back towards
shore. Do not hesitate to call for assistance. Longshore
Currents are simply the current that moves
along the beach, usually in the direction that the
wind is blowing. I there is a north wind, the longshore
current will sweep you towards the jetty where it
will become a rip current sucking out to sea.
and OCEAN SAFETY INFORMATION For Visitors
to South Padre Island
Before you jump into the waves, take a few
minutes to read this important water
safety information and discuss it with your
family and friends.
need to be aware of the surf conditions
and related currents. The
waves you've come here to enjoy are
irresistibly beautiful and enjoyable,
yet powerful and dangerous and must
be respected, even on the days when
the surf is relatively calm. There is now a Beach Patrol on SPI, but many rescues are performed
by local surfers, and
were recognized in 2003 by Cameron
County for the many rescues performed
with a proclamation
of "Surf's Up Week". Taking simple precautions like wearing
a lifejacket can easily avert a tragedy.
LEARN TO SWIM - WEAR A LIFEJACKET
IF YOU DON’T SWIM WELL
2. BE AWARE OF RIP CURRENTS
3. OBEY WARNING SIGNS AND FLAGS
4. HAVE AN ADULT CHECK CONDITIONS
5. DON'T SWIM ALONE
6. STAY IN WAIST DEEP WATER DURING
7. NEVER LEAVE CHILDREN UNATTENDED
8. DO NOT SWIM NEAR THE JETTY
9. DON'T RELY ON INFLATABLES
10. DON'T OVERESTIMATE YOUR SWIMMING
currents are common on all South
Padre Island Beaches. Rip currents occur
around the world at "surf"
beaches, including both the Atlantic
and Pacific coasts, the Great Lakes,
and the Gulf of Mexico including
South Padre Island. Rip
currents are also the #1 cause of
drownings. If you
are caught in one, how you respond
could make the difference between
life and death. Unlike undertows,
rip currents are shallow water processes
that do not pull a person under.
They form when water, piled against
the shore, begins to return to deeper
water. Typically, strong wind and
swell waves push water over a sandbar
allowing excess water to collect.
Eventually, the excess water starts
to return seaward through low areas
in the sandbar, "ripping"
an opening. Rip currents can be
readily seen from the shore. You
can spot a rip current by looking
for objects or foam moving steadily
seaward. Wave heights are also lower
and choppier in rip currents. Since
rip currents are NOT undertows, you can be pulled away from
the shore but not pulled under the
common mistake drowning victims
make is to panic and try to swim
directly toward the shore. Even
the best Olympic swimmers are not
able to successfully swim toward
shore in the strongest rip currents.If caught in a rip current, simply
remain calm and swim or paddle to
the side and the surf will push
you back towards shore. Do not hesitate
to call for assistance.
Currents are common, be
Rip Current Index
Rip Current Outlooks use the following,
three-tiered set of qualifiers:
Heights 0-2' and/or Wind Speed
less than 10 kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions
are not expected to support
the development of rip currents; however, rip currents
can sometimes occur,
especially in the vicinity of
groins, jetties, and piers.
Moderate Risk- Wave Heights 3-5'
and/or Wind Speed 10-20 kts.
Wind and/or wave conditions
support stronger or more frequent
rip currents. Only experienced
surf swimmers should enter the
water. Use a lifejacket, bodyboard
or flotation device.
High Risk - Wave Heights
6'+ and/or Wind Speed greater
Wind and/or wave conditions
support dangerous rip currents.
Rip currents are life-threatening
to anyone entering the surf.
Stay in waist deep water or
currents are NOT undertows,
you can be pulled away from
the shore but not pulled
under the water.
caught in a rip current, simply
remain calm and swim or
paddle to the
side and the surf will push
you back towards shore.
of flag does not assure safe
La ausencia de banderas no
condiciones de agua segura
911 for emergency
Marque el 911 para urgencias
you enter any County beaches you will notice the Flag Advisory
signs. There is no flag system
on City beaches
Sandbars and Dropoffs
waves may SEEM calm
at times and the ocean look safe,
but the bottom is irregular and uneven
with quick dropoffs and deep holes.
These conditions change daily. When
you step off the beach, in just a
few steps you can be in 5-7' of water,
this is very dangerous for children
and non-swimmers. After this first
trough, the first sandbar is around
50 feet out and can be a shallow as
1-2' on a low tide or much deeper
on a high tide. There are many deep
holes, even in shallow water. You
may be wading in 2' of water and take
one step and be in 6' of water. This
is very common in the first trough
close to shore.
Currents are simply the current
that moves along the beach, usually
in the direction that the wind is
blowing or the waves are breaking.
You will notice the longshore current
as you enter the water, causing you
to drift along the beach. These currents
can run as fast as 3mph. Not a hazard
for swimmers, unless there is a north
wind, the longshore current will sweep
you towards the jetty where it will
become a rip current sucking out to
tide plays an important factor in
water depths in the surf. The tide
range, or difference between high
and low tide varies between 1 to 3
feet. High tide will cause more powerful
waves to break closer to shore and
deeper water near shore. A
low or outgoing tide can greatly increase
the rip current risk.
the rocks are wet from waves,
DO NOT walk any further!
Jetties - Located
at the southern tip of the island
in Isla Blanca Park, the jetties are
not designed for public access, although
it is allowed. Neverswim near the jetty.
Many people have been swept off the
rocks and injured or swept out to
sea in the strong rip next to the
jetty while attempting to walk out
the jetty during high surf. The granite
boulders are barnacle encrusted and
urchin infested. Always bring some type of flotation
device to be used for rescue in case
someone falls into the surf. There
is a strong rip current located next
to the jetty. This rip current is
the strongest and most dangerous on
the entire Texas coast, and on big
days it can suck you out to the end
of the jetty into the "pit"
where the biggest waves will break,
and likely wash you back onto the
rocks. If you get caught in the rip, simply remain calm
and swim or paddle to the side away
from the jetty and the surf will
push you back towards shore. Do not
hesitate to call for assistance.
you notice a swimmer in
distress in the surf, first
have someonecall 911.
Then, before you ever attempt
a rescue, be sure to take
some type of floating object such as a bodyboard or inflatable
float or you are very likely
to also be a drowning victim.
As you approach the victim,
present the float to the
victim, keeping the float
BETWEEN you and the victim,
and continually reassure
the victim and make your
way towards shore. If you
happen to be caught in a
rip current with the victim,
remember to paddle across
the current, then back towards
is a concern mostly for weak
swimmers or the unfortunate
non-swimmer. An undertow occurs
when a wave is about to break
on a shallow sandbar where
a swimmer might be standing.
The water will suck underneath
the wave as it breaks. This
"undertow" can sweep
a weak swimmer off of their
feet and into deeper water,
and he may panic as the wave
crashes over his head. The undertow disperses almost
immediately until the next
wave approaches, then the
cycle starts again. An undertow
can drown a person just feet
are occasionally found
in shallow surf and have
a sharp barb at the base
of their tail that leaves
a small puncture wound,
and injects a very painful
venom. The pain will travel
up the legs to the groin
and armpits. APPLY HEAT
IMMEDIATELY (never ice)
directly to the wound.
It is advisable to seek
follow-up medical attention.
Infection rate is 100%
a blue advisory flag
is flying, stinging
jellyfish are likely
in the surf. Reactions
vary in individuals.
Rinse with fresh water,
in most cases the sting
may be treated with
vinegar and unseasoned
meat tenderizer mixed
in a paste, applied
directly to the sting.
NO GLASS BOTTLES ARE ALLOWED ON
DON'T LITTER. PICK UP SOME TRASH THAT ISN'T
911 first for any emergency.
South Padre Island EMS (956) 761-5454
Cameron County Park System (956) 761-5494
U.S. Coast Guard Station South Padre
Island (956) 761-2668
Cameron County Parks Police (956)
Water Safety Information was written by
local Ocean Safety expert Gene Gore with
the purpose of educating visitors to
South Padre Island in the hope of preventing
drownings. For additional questions or comments
feel free to email
As your experience in the surf grows, so will your knowledge
of the wind, the source of the waves we ride. You may be miles
from the coast one day, you feel a stiff breeze and look up
at a flag or tree, a cloud... a sign. You don't need the internet
to tell you, you know that's a south wind, blowing for two
days now... trees bending and whistling, flags whipping, low
clouds whisking by... it means one thing, a new south swell
The Texas coast is entirely unique in the way that the local
weather affects the waves. Our coast is mostly dependent on
wind-driven surf rather than ocean swell. While most coastal
weather patterns elsewhere only affect the general texture
of the ocean's surface they will have little impact on swell
generated thousands of miles away (groundswell). The Gulf
on the other hand, being roughly less than 1000 miles wide
is almost entirely affected by passing weather systems.
Another surprising fact about Texas surf: Texas (especially
South Padre Island) has more surf than anywhere else on Earth! It is a mathematical fact, you'll discover when you are paddling
out... you sure get pounded by a LOT of waves on the way out!
Our waves are short interval, mostly 6-8 seconds between waves
versus 12 to 15 to 20 second intervals on other coasts. Our
waves are nearly constant as well, while say in Hawaii you
can wait 20 minutes for a set. So, in a 1 hour period at South
Padre there may be over 600 waves breaking, while in Hawaii
you may only see a few dozen. And since there will be dozens
of surfers in Hawaii competing for those few waves, and sometimes
only a few surfers out in Texas picking the best waves, if
you want to catch more waves then surf Texas!
Wind generates waves, and when there is a storm system in
or near the Gulf the winds begin to blow and the wave-making
process begins, forming windswell. In Texas, on stormy windy
days when no normal person would even think of going to the
beach, this is when you'll find the avid Texas surfer waxing
up. This is also what makes Texas surfers a unique crew; stoked,
appreciative and dedicated to riding whatever Old Man Gulf
will hand out, no matter what the conditions.
Waves are created by the wind, wind is caused by differing
atmospheric pressures between high and low pressure systems. Onshore winds (SE, E or NE) are winds that blow towards
shore. Onshores cause the waves to build but make for choppy
conditions. Offshore winds (NW, W or SW) are winds
that blow from land towards the surf. Offshores cause the
waves to be perfect and hollow, but also causes Texas surf
to go flat. Sideshore winds (N or S) are winds that
blow directly up or down the beach, and can cause extreme
longshore currents. If the wind is blowing from the south,
you want to surf on the north side of the jetty, the conditions
will be much better. If the wind is from the north, then surf
the south side. The wind is labeled by the direction from
which it originates: a south wind comes from the south.
High pressure usually means nice weather but the surf is likely
to be small or flat. The wind rotates around a high in a clockwise
rotation. Low pressure systems are the source of most swells.
The more intense the low is, the stronger the winds become,
building the surf as they intensify. Low pressure systems
have a counter-clockwise rotation. The wind is measured by
an anemometer, air pressure is measured by a barometer. Barometric
pressure is a very important measurement used to predict weather
and surf. On a weather map, you can see little white lines
in swirling patterns called isobars. These are lines of equal
air pressure. The more isobars and the closer they are together,
the stronger the wind will be. The wind roughly follows the
direction of the isobars. In time, one quick glance at a weather
map and you'll know just how big the surf will be and where!
There are three factors that determine how
large and how well-formed the waves will be, and how long
they will last:
Fetch - The distance or area over which a
sustained wind blows over the water is called the fetch. Study
the buoys across the Gulf to see the effect of a short or
long fetch. Duration - How long the wind blows over the
water in a sustained direction. The direction of the prevailing
wind flow determines the dominant direction of the swell,
and each surf spot breaks differently on differing swell directions.
The longer the duration, the larger and better-formed the
surf becomes. Velocity - Of course, the speed and strength
of the wind will determine the size of the swell, but this
is dependent on the fetch and duaration.
Learn to understand and "read" the wind, it is the
key to predicting surf on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Storms and Hurricanes
Texas surfers live
for hurricanes! While the approach of a hurricane signals
evacuation, boarding up windows and panic shopping for most
people, for the Texas surfer it means one thing... Big Surf!
There are few spots (and few surfers) on the coast that can
handle the really big waves that major hurricanes produce,
the wind is almost always a major factor in the surf conditions.
Remember that hurricane surf can be very dangerous, with heavy
currents and huge waves washing up the beach pulling debris
out into the surf. Wear a strong leash, and realize that if
you do lose your board you may get sucked out beyond the 1/2
mile long jetty by our infamous rip currents here at South
Padre Island next to the jetty. Hurricane season runs from
June 1st to November 30th, with the most active period being
mid-September through October. Hurricanes can produce massive
surf of 20 feet or more, challenging the best surfers to not
only ride them, but to even make it out! The immense size
of hurricanes compared to the Gulf of Mexico usually creates
a common dilemma for Texas surfers... too much wind. Most
often winds will be N to NE causing poor conditions, but when
storms are in the eastern Gulf we are not hardly affected
by the winds, only receiving clean groundswell. Storms that
move north from the southern Gulf, as they pass by the winds
will become offshore, sucking into the storm, causing classic
conditions. Smaller tropical storms can often produce the
better waves, with less wind and they tend to hang around
in the Gulf a bit longer.
South Padre Island
is fortunate to have the most beautiful, well-kept beaches
on the coast. A strong sand renourishment program is keeping
check with erosion, there are no refineries to pollute the
air, no big city nearby to contribute to runoff pollution,
strict dune and beach protection policies, and regular trash
pickup. However, litter is always a problem at any beach,
take a minute and pick up any trash you see. It may not be
yours, but its your beach. South Padre Surf Co. is the State
Adopt-a-Beach sponsor for Isla Blanca Beach Park and the South
Padre Island jetties. Beach cleanups are held 3 times each
year, contact us if you would like to get involved. We are
also on the General Land Office Coastal Texas 2020 Advisory
Committee, giving a voice to area surfers, fishermen and beachgoers
in the coastal management processes, please contact us if
you have any comments. We are also long time supporters of
the Surfrider Foundation, the Texas Coast's leading advocate
for public beaches. Contact Surfider through their link below
to learn more.
you or someone you know would like to learn to surf,
we'll make your first experience a great one at South Padre
Island! South Padre Surf Company offers professional Surfing
Lessons year-round and fun day Surf Camps.