Saturday, December 22, 2012

Paddle Surfing Texas/Tanker Surfing: Chris Koerner's Texas Paddle-Thru

First of all, I've got to apologize to my good buddy, DogPatch local Chris Koerner for taking so damn long to get his story up and posted. I totally blew it. Sorry bro. I had to muck about in the archives and find his piece- it's really cool and even better, it's got me fired up to get down to Texas and chase some barges! Check out his story:

Paddle-thru Texas

I had a fun trip to Texas last month for Team ULI. I flew into Houston and met up with my old compadre Ken Brah from South End Surf n’ Paddle in NJ, and we loaded up our race and demo boards and lit off for Austin for the Paddle for Humanity on Lady Bird Lake. The paddle clinics were just wrapping up and the pre-event party was just getting started as we arrived on Friday afternoon. I expected Lone Star and Texas BBQ but instead they had free Kona Lagers and Wahoos so it was all good. 

This was the last of the five-race series for PFH, and if you’ve never done one of their events they are real fun. This year they ran a couple different races at each event: a 5k, a 10k, a Distance Over Time – something for everyone. The real crowd pleaser was the Chuck Patterson Rally (CPR), which started out at the early season events as a serious paddle/beach obstacle course-type race. However, at the beach-less venues (DC & Austin) it morphed into a cross between a demolition derby & American Gladiators on inflatable SUPs complete with luche libre masked saboteurs in the final. Everybody was getting into the act and some of the heats were pure comedy. 

PFH is all about fundraising, and a portion the entry fee goes to charity of your choice like the Ocean of Hope, Navy Seal Foundation, Best Day, Love 146 and more. They always attract some cool sponsors with lots of swag and Ocean Minded even puts on a beach/river cleanup between events. Anyway, we had some good finishes on the ULI 14s and Austin was a beautiful venue with a great paddling community and lots of good food & live music. I believe out of all the PFH events this year the lowest turnout was in Dana Point – proof of how paddling is growing all around the USA.

Paddle for Humanity:

Next stop was Galveston where the wind was offshore and the surf was a clean two to three inches.
Lucky for us we had a booking in the morning with Capt. James Fulbright at Tanker Surf Charters. He called the night before to confirm and we planned a meet up at dark-thirty so we could get on the water early to catch a very large vessel due to come up the Houston ship’s channel. 

The channel has a series of shoals & small islands formed by years of dredging, and the plan is to catch the wave as it hits the shoal and ride it until you wipe out or when you or the wave poops out, at which point you hop in the chase boat and get in front of the tanker and do it all over again. This can go on for 20+ miles or so and if you’re lucky you can find a ship heading out to sea and ride the waves all the way back to the drop in spot. 

As the sun was coming up we watched a couple mid sized tankers round the Bolivar Peninsula as we sat in the channel but we let them pass. Finally we saw what looked to be a small city slowly moving towards the inlet and we knew that was our ship. I thought we were having a solar eclipse when the behemoth passed and the Capt. ordered us over the side to get ready for the wave. There was nothing but flat water as far as we could see then all of a sudden a chest high wall of whitewater is bearing down on us a hundred yards away. There was a left & a right although at times they’re a couple hundred yards apart but the waves aren’t very top-to-bottom so you can angle off pretty easily. However – they are fast! 

We had a little chop on the first couple rides so we decided to go for distance and a couple of them took us 4 to 5 miles. Later on things cleaned up a bit and one of the shorter waves (3 minutes or so) ran right next to an island peeling perfectly like a point break. This setup is the perfect test lab for board shapers/designers, or somebody that just wants to check out the characteristics of a couple different boards. We used an ULI Lopez and Steamroller model with the new Wikirails and they performed great. 

I was pretty amazed how well Capt. James has the whole place dialed-in as there’s not a whole lot in the way of landmarks out there and other than the depth finder I didn’t see him checking out any navigational aids. He did a great job describing each wave’s characteristics and really shared the stoke if we had a good ride. I’ve surfed a lot of places and paddled a lot of races but I can’t say I’ve ever experienced anything like tanker surfing before, of felt that beat-up after a five or six hour session. Lucky for us we had some of that free beer leftover from Austin. Special thanks to ULI for the great travel boards, Wavecation, Tanker Surf Charters, and Watermans Applied Science.

Check back and I'll pull up some of Chris's photos from the event and the tanker surfari.

1 comment:

stand up paddleboards reviews said...

love the paddle boarding , i likely to use Bic Sports Paddle Boards , Wannt Try To Paint My Board This Summer , Nice Share