By James Fulbright

I remember the first time I went surfing like it took place yesterday, even though it happened 43 years ago. Talk about a lasting impression! I can’t say that about any other experience and let me tell you…I have had a LOT of experiences in my 53 years, mostly all due to me being a surfer. The travels, the people, the waves and the wipeouts are just a few memories I will someday chronicle in a book. I will start the book with the story about the “Midget of Petacalco”, but this is neither the time nor the venue to share that one! Surfing has had the most profound effect and influence on my life since that first and fateful day my Mom took me to the beach. As a result of sliding into my first wave on Galveston’s West Beach in the fall of ’67, I have been hooked on a feeling and still remain on some kind of eternal, cosmic quest. Only a surfer knows the feeling…once a surfer, always a surfer…surfing is life and the rest is details… the catch phrases are limitless, but most attempts to put the act of surfing into words or recreate it on a Hollywood set pale in comparison to the act and only taint the reality of the experience.

Non surfers will never get it. In fact, from a non surfer’s perspective from the outside looking in, surfing has little meaning. It appears to be nothing more than basic beach recreation and a pastime for arrogant slackers, addicts actually. We have been labeled as non productive members of society who constantly skirt responsibility for the self serving pursuit of riding a few waves. In a sense they would be right. Surfing is nothing more than the act of riding a wave on a surfboard, right? Why then have we sacrificed good paying jobs because of a rare swell? Most likely because we just didn’t like that job anyway–a schedule conflict so to speak. Why have we compromised our personal relationships just for a few tasty waves? Probably because we are Gulf Coast surfers. Around these parts surfable waves are few and far between. We get it when we can and to hell with the honey-do list! Why would anyone in their right mind travel to a disease infested third world country ravaged with poverty and war unless they were either on the lamb, very well armed or on a mercy mission with Red Cross? Well, to ride a perfect, isolated right hand point break for one and smokin’ deals on accommodations for another!

Some claim that surfing is a religious experience. Praise the Lord! Surfing is said to give one the ultimate connection with nature. That holds water until your arm brushes against that Portuguese Man-o-war, or worse, when that big dark shadow you thought you saw just brushed your leg and it felt like 35 grit sandpaper– hello landlord! Surfing allegedly builds character! Maybe so, but after your brush with “the landlord” I just mentioned I know for a fact you can suddenly walk on water! Another popular belief is that surfing keeps you young. That is true, with the notable exception of your once soft, supple fair skin turning into rawhide from years of sun exposure . The claims go on and on. Oh, surfing is said to be the ultimate extreme sport and, according to folklore, the sport of kings! Some of the oldest cave drawings supposedly depict human figures holding what appear to be surfboards. Even Jimi Hendrix, who is possibly the greatest guitar rocker of all time, but not a surfer, had a deep fascination with surfing, as did Timothy Leary. “Soon enough, time will tell, about the surfers and the wishing well”, wrote Hendrix. All of these descriptions and proclamations do have merit. I subscribe to them all. It doesn’t change the reality though that surfing is…well…just surfing. Or is it? I’ll share my first experience with you and then we will revisit that statement.

In 1967 surfing had just experienced popularity, growth and visibility on not only both coasts of the U.S. and along the Gulf Coast, but also worldwide. It was nothing short of a world-wide craze, especially after the film The Endless Summer premiered in theaters everywhere. That film singlehandedly introducing the sport to the masses. As a 10 year old kid growing up in Houston, I knew absolutely nothing about any of that. In fact, I had never been to the beach and the only time I ever even saw a surfboard was at my grandparents San Jacinto River house. My uncle owned a 1966 Dewey Weber Performer and kept it at the river house. I once witnessed my grandfather pulling my uncle on his board behind their small fishing boat. That was the extent of my knowledge of surfing at the time. I wasn’t interested. Why my mother decided one summer day to take me to Galveston specifically to surf, I’ll never know for sure. My destiny lay before me and I didn’t have a clue. Maybe she did. “James, I’m going to take you to the beach to go surfing”, said Mom. “OK” was my profound response. We proceeded to speed down I-45 on a hot, weekend summer day. All I remember about that leg of the journey was seeing the bay waters for the first time as we approached what appeared to be a megalith of a bridge that looked like it ended at the top, and we would fall off, into the water below. “Is this where I surf”, I asked? “No son, this is the bay. There is no surf in the bay”, Mom replied with a smirk.
We arrive on the island and began driving along the Seawall, going toward West Beach. My first glimpse of breaking waves, the Seawall teaming with people and activity, along with my excitement made me suddenly realize that I was squirming around like a worm. I needed to go! Uh oh. I asked in all seriousness, “Mom, are we there yet”? No sooner had I spoken those words, when I suddenly realized that all four car tires had left the ground and we were fully airborne, flying thru the air. Back then, when the Seawall ended, you could still drive down a ramp and directly onto West Beach. My mother had evidently forgotten about all that…or maybe not. We never touched the ramp but made final touchdown on the sand, spun sideways and came to a stop. Just ahead sat a rusty trailer with old rental surfboards propped up all around it and more stacked inside. Mom just casually exited the car while all these beach goers were cussing and yelling at her and said, “ we’re here now honey bunny, so go pick out whatever surfboard you want”. She then turned back to the lynch mob and gave ‘em a double hand sign and began using words that I didn’t understand. They must have gotten the point.

Surfboards were strange and a new thing for me. I had no idea what I was looking at or for but I picked out a old looking suntanned single fin about 9’ long that looked like some the nose had been cut off of her, then reshaped with a dull pocket knife. It also had number spray painted on the nose. None of that mattered because I was going surfing! Almost. Upon exiting the rusty trailer with my awesome stick, there was Mom. NO! In her hand was a bottle of Coppertone Suntan Lotion. Any 12 year old will attest to the humiliation, discomfort, embarrassment and hate, yes hate, that they must endure when their mother rubs lotion all over their face and body in front of God and country. “Now you have to wait for 15 minutes after I apply this before you can go in the water James”, she said. What seemed like a month later, Mom shook me out of my day dream about running away from home to get back at her for making me sit on the beach for 15 minutes and said the words that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. “OK, you can go now”.
I won’t bore you with every detail about what happened over the next 4 hours surfing, like the sand between my toes, wind in my face, bonding with nature, saltwater on my skin kind of crap. I went surfing and caught my first wave! The feeling I experienced is literally indescribable anyway, but it was so powerful and profound, my life was changed forever after a ten second ride. My mom tried to wave me in several times over the course of the afternoon but I rebelled. Of course I got into a lot of trouble and I nursed a third degree sunburn for several days due to my rebellion. On the drive back to Houston things were pretty quiet until Mom looked at me in the back seat and says, “you did really good honey bunny. You’re a natural”.
Is surfing just…..surfing? Hell no. Surfing changed my life. Surfing gave me purpose. Surfing continues to build my character. Surfing is my connection to God. Surfing gave me a trade. Surfing keeps me young, and you know what? On that first day, I felt like a king. Surfing is the sport of kings. Mom knew it all along.

James Fulbright is a local surfer who owns Strictly Hardcore Surf Shop on 37th Street and Avenue R. He can be reached at shaper@surfspecialties.com

Please view our “Surf Picture Blog” below containing photographs of our Galvestons Best in action!!

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Learn to surf or improve your surfing skills this summer? Presented by Ohana Surf Camps, Ohana strives to provide the absolute best summer surf camp along the Texas Gulf Coast. We are proud to have produced hundreds of surf camp sessions for kids since 2005 with literally thousands of 6 to 17 year old students successfully completing the program since its’ inception.

Presented by Ohana Surf Camps

Let us share our passion for surfing and knowledge of the sport with you in 2011. We have assembled a group of experienced open water safety certified watermen and women to serve as instructors who share our enthusiasm for the sport of surfing and love for the ocean. Our model of teaching is based on a “safety first attitude,” so get ready for another summer of fun.

Your child will be met each morning at 9 a.m. by their own Ohana Surf Camp instructor on the beach between 28th & 29th St. on Seawall Blvd. (weekdays) or West Beach/Hershey Beach (weekends) on beautiful Galveston Island. These are excellent sites with good waves, sandy bottoms, and safe environments for learning to surf. In addition to the professional staff of Ohana Surf Camp’s, there is a Galveston Beach Patrol Lifeguard on staff and on site each day of camp. In addition to our own lifeguard on site, two Galveston Beach Patrol lifeguards are on duty at the 27th and 29th street jetties from 9 a.m. until the end of the day. Daily camp hours are 9 a.m until noon seven days a week.

Through out the surf camp experience we have several individuals join us to teach our camper’s about the Gulf of Mexico and its inhabitants. A marine biologist will attend one day to teach the students about sea life. They will also create a ‘hands on’ experience by catching sea life for the campers to safely handle on shore. Other beach activities – such as during flat spells, have training time for pop-up drills, paddling, races, beach games and more. We also have time to explain how waves are generated here along the Texas Gulf Coast and around the world.

A photo keepsake program, goodie bags, and pizza party on the last day. Undoubtedly we have one of the most exciting, comprehensive, progressive surf camp programs on the Gulf Coast and we encourage you to visit our web site to learn more, or call upon our experienced staff at Ohana Surf & Skate for more information. Contact us at 409-763-2700 or go to www.ohanasurfandskate.com. Once again, we look forward to see you and yours’ for another “Summer of Fun” – Ohana style.

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Story & Photos By Bill Hill

Welcome to Island Waves, a monthly visit to the surfing community that calls Galveston Island home. March gave us some of the best surf we have had all winter.
Strong onshore winds would blow for a couple of days and kick up some decent sized surf then it would happen. A nice offshore front would storm across the beach and give us some of those days that all Texas surfer’s live for, clean, green and a whole lot of fun.
Check the shots from epic days of offshore surf we had during March, hope you enjoy the views. I invite you to check out www.g-townsurf.com. We give you a daily tour of what is going on at the beach along with a live HD web cam that gives one of the best views of the beaches around. Until next month, have fun, be safe and thanks for checking us out… Mahalo!

Bill “Billyblues” Hill is a full time Realtor who publishes a popular daily website about the beach lifestyle known as www.g-townsurf.com. Billy also does a Daily Surf Report on KSET 1300 AM in Beaumont.

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Cold waves welcome to Island Waves, a monthly visit to the surfing community that calls Galveston Island home. Cold, windy and not for the light hearted, that’s for sure. This past month was really a let-down as far as surf goes, mainly due to the lack of good surfing days.

The shots this month are of the only days that we had decent surf during the month of January, three to be exact. As you can see, even though you had to be part Polar Bear to brave the elements, there was no lack of enthusiasm from this crew.

See you next month when we will once again take a look at some of the coolest people I know that have a real passion for life on the Island. In closing I invite you to check out www.g-townsurf.com. We give you a daily tour of what is going on at the beach along with a live HD web cam that gives one of the best views of the beaches around. Until next month, Mahalo!

Bill “Billyblues” Hill is a full time Realtor who publishes a popular daily website about the beach lifestyle known as www.g-townsurf.com. Billy also does a Daily Surf Report on KSET 1300 AM in Beaumont.

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Story & Photos By Bill Hill

Welcome to Island Waves, amonthly visit to the surfing community that calls Galveston Island home.
We didn’t have too many good days in December as it seems that the conditions didn’t line up to give us much more than small, knee high surf for most of the month, but when we did get a swell, the locals went crazy.

I guess you could say that the surf on the Island in December wasn’t about quantity, but about quality. All the shots this month were from one afternoon in early December as the locals did the ocean dance next to the 61st street jetty.
I invite you to check out www.g-townsurf.com. We give you a daily tour of what is going on at the beach along with a live HD web cam that gives one of the best views of the beaches around. Until next month, have fun, be safe and thanks for checking us out.
Mahalo!

Bill “Billyblues” Hill is a full time Realtor who publishes a popular daily website about the beach lifestyle known as www.g-townsurf.com Billy also does a Daily Surf Report on KSET 1300 AM in Beaumont.

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Story & Photos By Bill Hill

Welcome to Island Waves, a monthly visit to the surfing community that calls Galveston Island home. November kind of came and went with not a lot of surf but, as you can see from this month’s shots, any ripple at all the locals went out on a variety of wave riding vehicles.

Of course there were the conventional surfboards, long and short. Add to that the new rage on the coast, the stand up paddle board. These bad boys are quite adaptable and a lot of fun because they work in small surf that may not be workable on a regular surfboard.

Then there’s the Windsurfers … skill, strength and a lot of practice make these a unique choice, but another fun way to hit the surf.

Last and certainly not least are the kamikazes of the surf, the kite boarder. These guys are always upside down, way up in the air as they fly by the jetty’s or just doing some unreal carving and they are a real treat to watch.

The skill level is high, and it takes a lot of practice and patience but looking at Matt’s face, our featured Kite Boarder this month, it looks like a boatload of fun!

Check the shots from the variety of conditions we had recently. I hope you enjoy the views.

I invite you to check out www.g-townsurf.com. We give you a daily tour of what is going on at the beach along with a live HD web cam that gives one of the best views of the beaches around.

Until next month, have fun, be safe and thanks for checking us out … Mahalo!

Bill “Billyblues” Hill is a full time Realtor who publishes a popular daily website about the beach lifestyle known as www.g-townsurf.com. Billy also does a Daily Surf Report on KSET 1300 AM in Beaumont.

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Story & Photos By Bill Hill

Welcome to Island Waves, a monthly visit to the surfing community that calls Galveston Island home.
It looks like soon we will be saying a fond farewell to a Galveston legend, The Flagship Hotel. As you have probably heard it will soon be gone to make way for a new amusement park that will be a restoration of the Historic Pleasure Pier.

The hotel opened in 1965 and has been a hub for surfing on the Gulf Coast since the first day. In the late 60s and early 70s we had massive crowds sitting on the Seawall for the Gulf Coast Surfing Association’s Surfing Contests, so much fun.

I remember running to the end of the pier in the 70s and jumping off with my surfboard, hoping not to get caught. I recall one day when I did that and when I hit the water I broke my big toe, that was a bummer! I had some of the best times of my life surfing at her feet and I know I will miss the way she used to be, but time to move on.

The shots this month are a look back at some recent sessions that happened in her shadows. Good bye old friend and thanks for the memories!

I invite you to check out www.g-townsurf.com. We give you a daily tour of what is going on at the beach along with a live HD web cam that gives one of the best views of the beaches around. Until next month, have fun, be safe and thanks for checking us out … Mahalo!

Bill “Billyblues” Hill is a full time Realtor who publishes a popular daily website about the beach lifestyle known as www.g-townsurf.com. Billy also does a Daily Surf Report on KSET 1300 AM in Beaumont.

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Livin’ On The “Dirty Side”

Welcome to Island Waves, Islander Magazine’s monthly visit to the surfing community that calls Galveston Island home.

September was rather disappointing as far as surf goes for the Island, just not much in the way of energy. Hurricane Karl along with a couple of other Tropical disturbances just didn’t produce any quality swells, other than the bumpy but obviously workable surf you see in this month’s shots. The issue is that we were on the “dirty side” of these storms and that does not give us clean swell energy, as a matter of fact that gives us choppy conditions along with lots of wind and rain… oh well. One thing is for sure, when a bump does come through the local gang jumps all over it.

The action this month was short lived but intense as you can see. We are really looking forward to fall as traditionally it begins the best time of the year for quality surf here on the Island, hope you enjoy the views from this month!!
I invite you to check out www.g-townsurf.com. We give you a daily tour of what is going on at the beach along with a live HD web cam that gives one of the best views of the beaches around. Until next month, have fun, be safe and thanks for checking us out… Mahalo!!

Bill “Billyblues” Hill is a full time Realtor that publishes a popular daily website about the beach lifestyle known as www.g-townsurf.com Billy also does a Daily Surf Report on KSET 1300 AM in Beaumont…

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