My Life As A Tanker Surfer

At first glance Texas is barren and lifeless, but upon closer look the brush, cacti and desert all support a vast amount of beauty. Whether you're talking about looking for waves or cattle rustling, in the Lone Star State there are myths, legends and tall tales of the ones that got away. But when it comes to surfing, the Gulf breeds them tough. The waters will lay dormant for months, but when an opportunity presents itself, it is truly a surfing treasure with a beauty all of its own...where else can you buy deer corn and surf wax at the same store?

Growing up in Texas as a grom, we (our surf gang) had heard rumors of the illusive tanker waves, but we neither had access to our old man's boat at the time or just didn't know where to start even looking for these things. "Loose lips sink ships," and we were the last people the older guys were gonna spill infomation to. Locations both in the Galveston and Corpus area was all we could come up with.

Tanker surfing is nothing new, nor is it really any different than chasing waves at your local break. The tides need to be right, wind direction needs to be just perfect, and you need to be on point, ready and waiting when the opportunity presents itself. Then, when all elements fall into place, the local surfer will find themself at spots with typical surf-spot names: Crabtraps, Redfish Island, the Holy Grail, and The Bulk just to name a few.


They may be starved for swell in Texas, but that don't mean there ain't no waves.

But there's one thing that's different. On a normal surf trip you don't have to judge boat bows and weight distribution. You don't have to be in constant communication with the pilots guiding the beasts through the small channels. And you don't usually have to worry about your chase boat. Ye treasure hunters beware, as is not for the faint at heart. Sunken boats in the lineup, long waits out on the bay exposed to the Texas heat, and the fact that dead men tell no tales make it hard for the common surfer to link it all together.

The majestic tanker waves were first explored by pioneers James Fulbright, John Benson and Peter Davies. They kept it all a secret for nearly a decade. But as with most surf spots, word eventually got out. Down south of the Houston ship channel there are pioneers that quickly followed, such as James Gill and Brad Lomax, along with Morgan Faulkner.

Ironic thing is, tanker surfing is an amazing product of our need for oil, but those long crisp lines are similiar to the ones you used to draw on your notebook, Well, actually these are just a tad smaller and break for miles. But whether it's a farce, bore surfing, longboarding, cheating or what, when your arms hurt from paddling, your legs hurt from manuevering and crossstepping to the nose for minutes at a time, to me, it's still surfing.

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