Bill Hall and his collection of The Surf Report

Bill Hall looks over an edition of The Surf Report, a monthly publication used by traveling surfers during the 1980s and 1990s, before the advent of the internet.

With our summer flat spell hitting its fourth week, a surfer’s thought naturally turns to travel.

Every year around this time, scores of upper coast wave-riders set out for Mexico, Central America, California and even further afield to surf. These trips have been a rite of passage for as long as there have been surfers, and people can usually find Texas surfers stationed all across the globe in search of waves, seeking a respite from the flatness that envelopes our stretch of beach this time each year.

Before the internet, much of what surfers learned about wave-rich travel destinations came from word of mouth or from a monthly publication known simply as The Surf Report. The Report, published by Surfer Magazine for much of the 1980s and through the mid-90s and billed as the “monthly summary and forecast of worldwide surfing conditions, was the go-to resource for a surfer to glean vital information about surf breaks, safety concerns, travel tips and all other manner of minutiae about a locale.

A few weeks back, Bill Hall — a longtime Texas surfer who now lives in Central Texas — was visiting Galveston and wanted to meet up to hand over some editions of The Surf Report he’d collected over the years.

When he gave me two binders filled with editions of The Surf Report, I was instantly transported back to a time when surf trips were as much about the mystery of a new place as the surf. His collection, 63 volumes dating from 1980 to 1985, are a goldmine of information that includes details about surfing and traveling in Peru, Tasmania, Barbados, Africa, Europe, Fiji and many other places.

Hall grew up surfing Galveston’s beaches in the 1970s and ‘80s but like most of us from these parts, he dreamed of far-flung destinations that produced exceptional surf. The Surf Report was a way to be transported to these dreamscapes without ever leaving the house.

Of course, once you ventured to one of the breaks described in The Report, the publication became an invaluable resource filled with swell direction, tidal influence and related wave information. I had copies of the publication for Mexico, Costa Rica, California and the Pacific Northwest, and I wore them out over the years.

I was stoked when Bill gave me his collection, and I’ve slowly been making my way through the gold-colored pages of each issue ever since.

While it’s wonderful to see video and photo documentation of an exotic surf break online these days, nothing is quite like reading an edition of The Surf Report and using my imagination to envision what I’d find at the end of the road.

Here’s to more adventures to come.

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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