If you’ve surfed the upper Texas coast for any length of time, you’ve likely come to realize the online surf forecasting tools aren’t that much of a help when predicting the best times to surf in Galveston and Surfside.

Yes, the two most-used, free online tools — magicseaweed.com and swellinfo.com — can give some basic information on wind direction and speed and the tides but beyond that your best bet for surfing here is to check the online cams and just go.

Unlike the two other coasts in the U.S., the Gulf Coast isn’t typically blessed with long-period groundswells that travel thousands of miles to break on our shores. Our surf is created by locally strong onshore winds that occasionally switch to offshores when a cool front passes or a storm squall blows through the area. Those offshore breezes can clean up the surf and create classic days if the onshore breezes have built the surf adequately.

When I lived in California, the standard-bearer for surf forecasting was Surfline, the same great tool that has been predicting swells on the left coast for decades. Surfline could accurately predict — up to seven days out in some cases — when the next swell was going to arrive, what beach would be the correct angle for a particular swell and the actual times when the waves would be the best.

The abundance of information meant there weren’t many mysteries when it came to catching the best surf. It also meant the crowds were intense when the waves were doing their thing.

In Texas, it’s a bit more of a lucky draw. And here, timing is absolutely everything. An hour here or there of a wind shift, and you’ve missed the optimal waves. There have been many days when I’ve surfed with just a few other people in the water because all the conditions came together in a relatively small window of time.

In our Lone Star State, at least, there is still such a thing as a sneaker swell even with all the cameras pointing directly at our surf breaks. Here’s to more of those.

BRAZILIAN RETURNS TO FORM IN RIO

The World Surf League’s South American leg ended over the weekend, with Brazil’s Filipe Toledo capturing the victory at the Oi Rio Pro over South African Jordy Smith.

With the win, Toledo improves to third place on the World Surf League leaderboard behind Hawaii’s John John Florence and Californian Kolohe Andino. With solid performances in Rio, other big moves up the leaderboard included 11-time world champ Kelly Slater to seventh, defending champion Gabriel Medina of Brazil to eighth and last year’s runner-up, Australian Julian Wilson to ninth.

Speaking of Florence, the two-time champ appeared to have reinjured his surgically repaired knee while boosting an air on a wave during the Rio competition and withdrew from his quarterfinal heat against Smith. There have been crickets from his camp since the injury regarding whether he’ll surf in the upcoming Corona Open J-Bay in South Africa, which is set to begin on July 9.

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

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