Surfing doesn’t follow a set schedule, say the way a football or baseball game might. There’s no printed calendar that tells you when there are going to be waves or where the best surf might be breaking on a given day.

To be a surfer — especially along the Gulf Coast — is to experience months of mostly disappointing conditions with a few magical, perfect days sprinkled in here and there throughout a year.

So, when the ocean turns on, you have to be ready. Appointments cancelled, schedules changed, reservations amended.

This got me thinking about the way surfers — and those understanding people who are in relationships with them — have to be a pretty flexible lot. Evidence of such elasticity was on display this past Sunday morning as I shared the water with hundreds of fellow wave riders enjoying the bounty from Hurricane Nate.

The swell was the stuff of a Gulf Coast surfer’s dreams: perfect, chest-high walls groomed clean by the light offshore winds. Up and down the beach, the sound of the beautiful waves glistening golden in the morning sun was broken only by hoots of encouragement from the crew. Everyone seemed to be having a blast.

Seawall Boulevard, from 61st Street to the Pleasure Pier, was packed with surfers, each one with their own tale of having to postpone a birthday gathering, miss a football game or skip church. It’s not that surfers think these events are unimportant. It’s just that Mother Nature so rarely lights up our stretch of coastline that we have to juggle personal commitments with time in the water.

It’s a delicate balance.

Recently, I was discussing another topic with a surfer’s wife and she relayed the words from her then-boyfriend: “When the waves are good, I will miss some important events in our lives. If you’re not OK with that, then we probably shouldn’t be together.”

It sounds blunt and selfish when I see it in writing. But, in reality, it’s the truth.

Even on the West Coast, where surf forecasting has improved so much in recent years that prognosticators can actually pinpoint the hour of arrival of a particular swell on a particular stretch of sand, it’s still difficult to schedule time in the water.

Add to that the unpredictability of optimal winds and swell conditions here in Galveston, and you have a recipe for having to make hard choices between riding waves (a solitary and, I would argue, addictive pursuit) and the raft of commitments made when it was flat a few weeks back.

Judging from the number of surfers in the water Sunday, the importance of flexibility — not only in the physical sense — was on full display.

The good news, depending on your perspective, is that the Gulf is flat as a lake again. At least for now.


Reminder: Surf Swap Meet

today in Galveston

Lolo Kai Smoothies and Wraps will hold its annual Surf Swap Meet today starting at 6:30 p.m. at 2002 Postoffice St. (next to The Grand 1894 Opera House) during this month’s ArtWalk. For more information, check out Lolo Kai’s Facebook page at

Stephen Hadley is a longtime surfer who lives and works in Galveston. If you have a suggestion for a surfing-related topic you’d like to see covered in this column, email

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