Contrary to what some might think, surfers don’t long for tropical weather to come our way.
Since we live and work in the county just like everyone else, we never want the calamity and catastrophe that comes with a strong tropical system paying a visit to our beloved upper coast. Most of us have been through our fair share of these disasters through the years, and we don’t wish them on anyone.
Of course, as someone who loves to ride waves, I also keep an eye on any tropical system that enters the Gulf of Mexico with regard to what it could mean for surfing. This week was no exception, as all eyes were focused on Barry as the hurricane began to spin Thursday.
Upper coast surfers were chattering on social media about the possibility of clean waves being sent to Galveston beaches by the small tropical system. But anyone who has surfed here for a while took one look at Barry’s projected path and knew any surf the hurricane created here would likely be small.
In Galveston, the best waves we’ve had in recent years have come from tropical systems that traverse the mid-Gulf before heading inland near Florida’s Panhandle or just west of there. Think Hurricane Isidore in 2002, Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Michael just last October.
Each of these systems spent copious amounts of time churning up the Gulf and creating wave trains emanating from their centers of circulation.
For the best waves to show up in Galveston, these trains must pass through the island’s swell window in the middle of the Gulf thus sending pulses to break along our south-southeasterly facing beaches.
When the systems move inland to our east, the winds here locally turn offshore and keep the pumping waves groomed to perfection.
While Barry was expected to make landfall to our east, the center of circulation stayed near the northern reaches of the Gulf Coast, the bulk of its winds (which build the waves that travel outward from the center) blocked from Galveston by Louisiana’s boot.
That’s not to say that there won’t be something to ride either late Saturday or early Sunday from Barry. I just wouldn’t bet on it being classic surf by any stretch.
Of course, any wave breaking along our beaches during the summer months is worth at least a look.
Keep checking the surf cams and remember to take a look at the National Data Buoy Center’s Galveston buoy readings. That buoy, located 22 nautical miles east of Galveston, is a great resource to check swell size and period on an hourly basis. You can find the data online at https://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=42035.