Coffee, bright morning light, north wind wreaking havoc in the palm trees; the smell of sand dunes thick in the air. Don’t even check it, just throw the gear in the back and go. South Padre Island surf rarely looks good from the beach; endless lines of whitewater rolling in, waves crashing all over the place. If you didn’t know the potential you’d never guess what might be going on out there.
Besides year round wind and the endless acres of flatwater riding, SPI has miles of continuous, road accessed, unrestricted ocean beach, perfect for surf downwinders. Our typical session on a north wind like this one is called ‘End Of The Road.’ It’s a downwinder that literally starts at the end of the road where the pavement is buried in sand dunes north of town. We ride downwind back home. Get a ride upwind with your crew, or just drive up there and take a taxi back for your car later, it’s no big deal. My run is typically about an hour-and-a-half, it’s a 7-miler from the launch to the finish at my street where I pack up and walk half a block to my house. Everyone lives close to the ocean down here, and every hotel or condo for rent is just as close or closer.
Sideoff is a direction a lot of kiters are apprehensive about, but when it comes to down-the-line surfing there is nothing better. The kite sits downwind of you right over the face of the wave just drifting while you shred it as fast as you want. It’s blowing about 22-27 miles per hour, the kite is low, just in front of and above the wave. The sun is low too, it’s about 8 AM. With the sun coming over the horizon of the Gulf of Mexico and shining straight at the beach there is this great shadow on the wave. You know you’re in a good place when you drop out of the glare and into the cool, soft light of the shadow on the face.
For no good reason I tend to ride beat up, old boards. I don’t exactly know why. I have access to plenty of great choices and love the way new and custom boards ride. The good feel of a better surfboard under your feet is undeniable. Not to say this Slingshot Tyrant isn’t any good. It’s a killer stick, but this particular one has probably seen a few too many days under foot, in the travel bag, under the lip and on the rocks. Both rails have been cracked, crushed, repaired, and you can see the golf-ball-sized hole in the deck from either the harness hook or the bar end, I don’t remember which. The left fin is a little loose and it’s carrying about a gallon of water inside.
It shouldn’t be the first pick in the quiver anymore, but it’s still getting the job done and there’s something I love about that familiar ride. Overcoming everything that should be holding it back, still going for glory, never letting me down. It’s like an old pickup truck on a dusty dirt road, or a little unsung sandbar barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico: it shouldn’t be the this good, but it is.
There ain’t no surf in Texas? Think again.
Be sure to check out our South Padre Island Kiteboarding Guide.
Brett Newcomb is a coach at Pro Kite South Padre. prokitesouthpadre.com