By: Jessie Monsavais Photography by: Rachel Benavides and Kady Kreis
With summer quickly approaching, our anticipation for Vitamin D, salty seas, and warm sand is reaching its summit. In the Coastal Bend, opportunities to be out on the water are anything but scarce. With consistent breeze, warm temperatures, and multiple inviting bodies of water, you can find all sorts of water sport adventures right in your own backyard. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or a calm experience, the Coastal Bend has water activities for all ages and experience levels – so get out of the house, grab the board of your liking, and embrace our Coastal Bend water culture!
Corpus Christi is the surfing mecca of Texas. In the summer season, the southeast sea breeze blows across the Gulf of Mexico, building a choppy surf that fuels prime conditions along the South Texas Coast for novices and surf addicts alike.
Waves in the Gulf slow down early due to the gradual slope of the continental shelf, and begin to feel the bottom early on, which slows them down to generate a forgiving wave. With water temperatures in the summer averaging about 86 degrees, surf here is considerably warmer than waters on the east and west coasts.
Keith Bass, Manager of the Texas Surf Museum, has been surfing since he was 14. “What I like about surfing here is the unpredictability of it. It can be slop one hour, then great surf another. It’s so random – always changing, always breaking in a different spot, dropping in different areas. It’s also generally forgiving with the sandy bottom, but you need to be a good paddler on the big days. If you can surf here, you can surf anywhere,” he shares.
In 2005, Corpus Christi birthed the only surf museum in the state. The Texas Surf Museum explores the history of the pastime, showcasing the unique surfing achievements that have blossomed in Texas and in our local area. A bucket-list attraction for surfers, tourists, and history buffs alike, the museum is home to hundreds of beautiful surfing treasures, an extensive history of surfing pioneers, and educational displays of proper conservation practices to protect and preserve the beaches, bays, and waterways of the Texas Gulf Coast we all know and love.
The non-profit museum plays a vibrant part in the community, providing educational opportunities and encouraging the locals and tourists to experience the fun, accessible, safe, and healthy lifestyle of surfing.
“We love showing people what’s cool about Corpus. Every water sport is available for everyone, if you really want to try. [Surfing is] mentally stimulating, exciting, and an occasional adrenaline rush. It keeps you healthy. I’ve always said the salt preserves you,” Bass says with a laugh, even though he definitely isn’t kidding. Before 1962, surfboards and shops were not available in the Coastal Bend. Keith shares, “These guys from Galveston went out to California and different places to buy supplies to make surf boards, because there was nowhere in Texas where you could get that kind of stuff. It started a big surfing boom.”
Surfing in Corpus Christi became popular after it flourished in Galveston, bringing much of the lifestyle that exists here today. For 32 years, Wind and Wave has been the premier South Texas surf, skate, and kayak shop. The locally owned family business provides daily and weekly surfboard, stand up paddle board, and kayak rentals, all conveniently located on the way to the beach in Flour Bluff. Nate Floyd, whose family owns it, says, “Corpus has the best proximity to the beach. We tend to have more and better waves throughout the year. We’re kind of like the epicenter of Texas surfing.”
located in the Water Street Market. texassurfmuseum.org
Bird Island Basin is the last windsurfing stronghold. Every year, Corpus attracts visitors from up north to this prime location of a calm and shallow Laguna Madre. As one of the Top 3 destinations for windsurfing in North America, Bird Island Basin is internationally recognized for the sport, and is the only windsurfing operation in a National Park. Bird Island Basin offers a unique experience of windsurfing, as well as kayaking, boating, birding, fishing and camping.
Windsurfing is a surface water sport that essentially combines elements from both surfing and sailing, using the wind to propel adventurers forward, as opposed to the waves themselves. It didn’t become the sport we all know today until the 1960s, when a new board designed specifically for windsurfing allowed it to leap into prominence.
Olivier Jallais, instructor at Worldwinds Windsurfing, tells us Bird Island Basin is by far the best location to learn to windsurf because of the minimal water depth and the school. Worldwinds Windsurfing offers appropriate gear and the best classes for beginners. “It can be a little bit harder when the water is deeper and not as smooth. The Laguna here is flat and shallow, so it’s great for beginners, intermediate, and speedsters. You can be 8 or 80 years old. Windsurfing is for all ages,” he adds with a little chuckle.
Worldwinds owner Don Jackson says it’s the best-kept secret in Corpus Christi. “There’s not a better place to teach windsurfing than right here. From a standpoint of safety, you have the flat, shallow, warm water, and you’re in a close and safe environment, bringing you a higher chance of success because the conditions really are just perfect.”
For class times and more information, call (361) 949-7472.
Surfing isn’t the only sport central to Corpus Christi. In fact, all around the Coastal Bend, from Rockport and Aransas Pass to Mustang Island, locals and visitors can find kayaking adventures for everyone. Frank Floyd, owner of Wind and Wave, tells us kayaking is user-friendly and an easy way for people to get out on the water, even if they might not have much experience. “You can get boats set up for the family, it’s dog-friendly, and you don’t have to be in perfect shape or condition. Just about anyone can do it; there are kayaks made for just about everyone.”
Areas such as the Laguna Madre, Lighthouse Lakes, and Mustang Island State Park offer warm, shallow waters and unique bird watching. Locals will also attest to fishing from their kayaks for a convenient and peaceful day on the water. “If there’s no surf, then early in the morning before work or something I’ll drop the kayak off the back dock and go paddling and look for some fish, or just go for a paddle and see the birds and get away from everything. I was a surfer first, but I love getting out and paddling and escaping,” Floyd says enthusiastically.
Wind and Wave schedules demo days for prospective kayakers to come out and play with different models and see what each kayak is like. Floyd shares, “Wind and Wave offers a great selection of kayaks that serve the best use for the region. We like to know what you’re going to use it for and get you what fits you and your needs. That’s always been our philosophy.”
For daily forecasts and more information, follow Wind and Wave on Facebook @windandwave.
The Gulf Coast is a definite hot spot for fishing – anglers travel here from all over to drop a line into our green waters. Fishing in Corpus is great year-round, although species of fish to catch vary depending on the time of year. Local fisherman Tom Chrobocinski has been fishing in the Corpus Christi area since 1980.
“There’s such a variety of fishing you can do. You can fish in the surf and catch anything from whiting to sharks. There are all kinds of different species; you never know what you’re going to catch when you’re out in the surf, which is kind of a fun thing,” he says with excitement.
If you don’t have access to a boat, no problem. You can fish from shore, on a pier, or out in the Laguna, where people like to wade fish. Chrobocinski adds, “If you have a boat, it opens up a lot of things, but what a lot of people do now is kayak fishing.” On a popular summer day, boat ramps can get crowded, and one of the advantages of kayak fishing is the ability to launch almost anywhere there’s a shoreline.
Fishing also requires minimum equipment. Although the option to upgrade your gear is always available, the essentials are few: rod, bait or lure, and a license. You can find everything you need for your fishing needs at Roy’s Bait and Tackle, a locally owned fishing outfitter that has provided fishing products to the community for 40 years.
“I like lures you can fly. I like the sporting aspect of it, of ‘How can I fool this fish?’ Trying to tease the fish and know what’s going to bite that day, and see what I can do to entice them to take the bait, whether it’s change in presentation or a change in the lures … most pretty lures catch fisherman, ugly lures catch fish,” Chrobocinski says.
Fishing really is a sport for all ages, and is a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family. The variety of ways to fish can seem daunting, but really it allows this to be one of the most convenient ways to get out on the water and really embrace our Coastal Bend culture.
Roy’s Bait and Tackle Outfitters is at 7613 S Padre Island Drive; call (361) 992-2960.
With consistent breeze alone, Corpus is a world-class sailing location. You don’t have to own a yacht to enjoy the thrills of the Corpus Christi Bay. Every Wednesday night, depending on the weather, the sailing community gathers at the docks; rigging up their boats and fastening their clews to participate in the Corpus Christi Midget Ocean Racing Fleet (CCMORF) Wednesday Night Regatta. Captains are always accepting crew members to help race their boats.
Experienced sailors are an advantage, but inexperienced sailors are welcomed, and serve an essential responsibility as “rail meat” – crew seated on the high side of the boat to counteract excessive heeling on windy days. “If people want to get on the water, there’s a way to get on the water. The primary reason more boats don’t go sailing is they don’t have enough crew, and you can’t sail a boat by yourself, especially from a racing standpoint,” says local boat owner and past Commodore Steve Hastings.
Whether you sail is up to you; the Lawrence St. T-Head offers a great spot for onlookers to watch the local races at the start line. The races start at 6 p.m. and end around 8 p.m.
Corpus is home to the third-oldest yacht club in the Gulf Coast. The Corpus Christi Yacht Club is a private club that welcomes members and non-members to enroll their youth (ages 6 – 18) in one-week sessions that provide the opportunity to learn basic sailing techniques. Local sailor Billy Liles says, “This is something to do with your kids to teach them a skill for life: self-reliance, teamwork, and being able to trust yourself and make quick decisions when Mother Nature throws wild cards at you.”
For race times and crew information, visit ccmorf.org.
No matter the activity of your choice, the options for getting out on the water in the Coastal Bend are plentiful, and the ones listed here aren’t all. From surfing and sailing to kitesurfing and even paddle board yoga, there really is no shortage of ways to embrace our proximity to so much water.