Visiting the Coastal Bend can lead you to four “S” words that mean fun! Sand, surfboards, sunshades and sunshine are plenty, and they’re also part of our surfing culture. We spoke with Dan Parker, a Port Aransas resident with a wealth of information, to answer a few questions of surfing history in the area.
Q: When did surfing become a common sport in the area?
A: Very little surfing was done in the Coastal Bend before 1962, because surfboards weren't generally available here. No surf shops existed. The first ones became available in 1962 as rentals, provided in a business operated by Cecil Laws of Corpus Christi. The boards were rented on the beach near Bob Hall Pier. Surf shops were established within the next several years, and surfing became much more common then.
Q: Who were some of the pioneers?
A: In addition to the previously mentioned Cecil Laws and his son, Larry Laws, Coastal Bend surfing pioneers have included Cliff Schlabach, Donna Self, James Gill, Pat and Tippy Kelley, Larry Haas, Tony Mierzwa, Puddy Albright, Steve Schuster and Pat Harral, all of Corpus Christi. Port Aransas pioneers included Pat Magee, Paulette Just, George Hawn and George and David Loe. All of these surfers' accomplishments have been celebrated on the walls of the Texas Surf Museum in Corpus Christi.
Q: How did tanker surfing evolve in the area?
A: Tanker surfing isn't something that's been done with a lot of consistency in the Coastal Bend. Surfing real waves on Gulf-facing beaches is far more common. But that's not to say tanker surfing isn't done at all here. It certainly is, to some extent. People are attracted to it partly because flat spells at the beach can run for weeks, which can drive a surfer crazy. Eventually, in the middle of all that flatness, you go looking for a sure thing. Under the right conditions, tanker ship wakes can provide long, fun rides. But you've got to know exactly where to wait for the wake, and you've got to know when the ships are coming. That takes quite a bit of local knowledge. For safety’s sake, inexperienced folks shouldn’t go running around on boats, chasing tanker ships and possibly getting in the way of those huge vessels. That kind of thing should be left to boating and surfing veterans.
Q: What are some of the oldest surf shops in the area?
If you want to learn more about surfing in the Coastal Bend, check out the Texas Surf Museum or pick up a copy of Dan’s book that he co-authored with his wife, Michelle. Surfing Corpus Christi and Port Aransas can be found here!