The state’s top competitive surfers will converge on the island today for Texas Gulf Surfing Association’s Galveston Open.

The competition, slated to begin this morning at the 51st Street Jetty, is the second contest of the season for the TGSA, which is celebrating its 30th year in existence. The first competition took place at Packery Channel in Corpus Christi on Feb. 3-4.

TGSA North District Surfer’s Representative Kris Hopkins said the plan is to hold the entire Galveston Open in one day (instead of the usual two-day window) because the surf forecast isn’t as promising for Sunday.

As with any surfing competition, Mother Nature dictates the playing field, so organizations like the TGSA understand that flexibility is the name of the game.

The TGSA, which has been the standard for some of the most progressive surfing taking place in Texas, was formed in 1988 with the merger of the Texas Surfing Association and the Gulf Surfing Association. Technically, the organization is the sanctioning body for competitive amateur surfing that takes place from the Mexican border in the south to the Louisiana/Mississippi state line to our east, according to Matt Warshaw’s Encyclopedia of Surfing.

In fact, most of the best surfers from our neck of the woods along the upper Texas coast have competed in TGSA contests at one time or another: JoJo Balusek, Bobby Morrow, Albert Shannon, Steve Rabelas, Brett Hopkins, Bronson Hilliard, Kris Hopkins, Kyle Hopkins, Milby Shannon, Sonny Morales, Gabe Prusmack, John Novicky, David Colombo, John Jones, Luke Smith and a host of others that I’m inadvertently omitting.

Unlike some sports where there is a clear-cut path to collecting points (scoring a touchdown in football, hitting a homer in baseball or nailing a three in basketball), competitive surfing is more subjective, relying on a collection of judges to score each surfer’s wave ridden in a 15-minute heat (20 minutes in a final).

The judges are longtime surfers who understand the nuances and difficulty of each maneuver a surfer attempts. A surfer is judged on his or her ability to “perform radical, controlled maneuvers in the critical section of a wave with speed, power and flow to maximize scoring potential,” according to the TGSA rulebook. More innovative and progressive surfers who perform a variety of maneuvers are awarded more points and thus advance through the competition.

And the contest includes all manner of categories from young surfers (8 years old and under) to competitors who are past age 50, either riding shortboards or longboards.

Hopkins, the TGSA rep and Galveston local, has been donning a contest jersey for the past 25 years, competing against his friends and fellow surfers since he was 10.

“Obviously, no matter what sport you participate in, you don’t have to compete to enjoy it,” Hopkins said. “But I’ve found that it’s one of the best ways to test your skills against others when you get those competitive juices flowing. It pushes you to pay attention to every single aspect of your surfing and realize what your strengths are and where you need work.”

Aside from the competitive opportunity it presents to our state’s surfers, the TGSA feels like a family of sorts. At each contest, it’s a reunion of longtime friends who, in some cases, have been surfing together-and competing against each other-for decades.

That reunion will get started again this morning as the first heats hit the water at 9 a.m.

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

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