Only surfers with the heartiest of souls and the thickest of wetsuits ventured into the water this week along the upper Texas coast.

With temperatures struggling to make it out of the 50s and howling winds making it feel even colder, the waves would have had to be stellar to coax most of us into the Gulf. As luck would have it during this latest cold snap, the surf has been mostly sub-par over the past few days, meaning that finding the chutzpah to brave the elements hasn’t really been an issue.

Of course, cold-water surfing is relative in Texas.

Take, for instance, Longport, N.J., surfer Ben Graeff, better known by his YouTube channel moniker Ben Gravy.

Graeff, who has a fast-growing and loyal online following, is not only a great surfer, but his level of stoke is off the charts. In fact, his positivity and straightforward approach to life as an East Coast surfer make his channel an entertaining and fun viewing experience. And Graeff pretty much ventures out in all conditions, even when it’s below freezing and the beach is covered in snow.

Watching Graeff and his friends suit up and hit the surf when it’s tiny, and in spite of the ice hanging from their beards, is a testament to the allure of the ocean and the addiction that is surfing. It’s a healthy obsession but an obsession nonetheless.

While he is considered a pro, Graeff is more well known as a novelty surfer, which means he tries to ride waves of all kinds, whether they’re breaking in the ocean, flowing in a river or are man-made. His goal is to ride some kind of wave in all 50 states by the end of next year, and he’s more than halfway complete in his mission already.

His more than 22,000 subscribers are referred to as the NUB (Nobody’s Unliked Buddy) Nation and they look forward to his daily blog posts about his adventures in and out of the water and his motivational aphorisms about living life on your own terms.

In an update posted on his channel last week, Graeff says he’s coming to Texas in 2018 to surf in the Gulf, to check out one of our inland man-made waves or to ride the waves created by tankers in our bays. Perhaps he’ll have a chance to do all three.

No matter what, I’m confident that he’ll find plenty of reasons to be stoked about the Lone Star State and the opportunities for riding waves that continue to blossom here. I’ll keep you posted about his visit when it happens. Stay tuned.

If you’re interested in learning more about Graeff, check out his Ben Gravy Vlog (video blog) on YouTube at



Houston surfer Michael Bronson Hilliard, who lived in the Aloha State for a bit a while back, surprised his son Cole Hilliard with tickets to Hawaii’s North Shore for Christmas. The father-son duo, along with Houston-area surfer Paul Stagoski, were busy exploring the famed surf breaks this week.


The Texas Gulf Surfing Association recently announced that the organization has joined USA Surfing, the national governing body for surfing in the United States that is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

The move opens up new avenues of competition for TGSA surfers and allows them to compete at regional and national events throughout the year. The top-performing surfers from each region will qualify to compete at the USA Surfing Championships at Lower Trestles in Southern California in June.

Stephen Hadley is a longtime surfer who lives and works in Galveston. If you have an idea for this column, email him at

(1) comment

Kelly Naschke

A little bird told me that Graeff is headed our way in February to snag some tanker swell. I think you know who to contact for the 411. If it’s true and actually happens, it might make a good story AND give a local entrepreneur some good publicity. Sooooo many people are still unaware of what’s in our own backyard.

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