Surfing column picture

Brett Hopkins, a member of the Galveston-based Southern Spears Surf Shop surf team, competes in the Texas Gulf Surfing Association’s Port Aransas Open last weekend. The Southern Spears squad took first place in the team competition at the event thanks to strong performances by Hopkins and his teammates.

Last weekend’s cold front brought an exceptionally good run of waves for Texas surfers, as both Saturday and Sunday were marked by decent size and clean conditions. It was about as good as it gets around these parts.

I ended up surfing for four hours straight on Saturday morning because the waves were just too good to leave, even though I was well past the point of exhaustion.

After that session, arms burning from the long paddles and legs aching from riding so many good waves, I developed a theory.

It seems to me that many surfers — myself included — hit a sweet spot in their evolution as wave riders somewhere near age 40. That’s when our growing ocean knowledge, experience reading waves and understanding of particular surf breaks bisects with strength and endurance before those physical attributes begin their downward slide.

At least that’s my reality. It seems a cruel irony that as my wave selection and general understanding of the ocean has improved, my pop-up is slower, my cutbacks aren’t as sharp and my ability to get around crumbling sections isn’t what it used to be.

Still, being a few years beyond the perceived four-decade mark of my theory, the enjoyment of riding a wave hasn’t dulled a bit. If anything, it has heightened my gratitude for the gift of surfing.

Dropping in on a moving wall, the vision of a wave face stacked in front of me like an empty canvas, is one of the most surreal and memorable experiences of my life. The feel of gliding atop water, speeding ahead of the breaking curl and the roar of the wave’s energy is mind-altering, a natural endorphin rush that is meditative, addictive.

Perhaps with age comes the ability to better appreciate surfing’s sensory experiences, the mind pausing to let the magic of interacting in such a close way with the ocean fully bloom.

All I know is that I drifted off to sleep both nights last weekend seeing images of the waves I had ridden during the day. And I can’t wait to do it again.


The Southern Spears Surf Shop team took first place honors at last weekend’s Texas Gulf Surfing Association Port Aransas Open. Congratulations to team members Brett Hopkins, Bronson Hilliard, John Jones, Caden Shelton, Paul Stagnowski, Jacob Columbo, Jason Shelton and Reef Ellison for their performances in the competition that led to the team victory.


Saturday is the first day of the waiting period for the World Surf League’s final event of the year, the Billabong Pipeline Masters. The forecast is calling for good-sized swells, but lots of wind, throughout the event. Tune in to to see who captures this year’s world title.

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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