“A Beach Day in Texas, 1969”
I first published this story almost a year ago. My good friend Danny asked me to republish it because it’s one of his favorites. I have added a picture of the beach in Port Aransas from around 1967. The guy in the foreground carrying the longboard is Pat Magee, a local resident who won many surfing championships and opened his own surf shop in Port A around 1968. Any day in the summer during the late 60s, there would be a line of vans and cars two deep parked between the pier and the South jetty, since that was the favorite surf spot. I was fortunate to have been a part of that.
The hint of daylight gives enough lumination for me to find my way down the steep steps of my family’s beach house. Grabbing my surfboard, wax, and a few towels, I load my supplies into the back of the old Army jeep and leave for the beach. The old vehicle takes time to wake up, and it sputters down E Street, doing its best to deliver me to the water’s edge.
Port Aransas is quiet this morning. Fisherman and surfers are the only souls moving on the small island.
As I drive to the beach, taking the road through the sand dunes near the jetty, the morning dew on the metal surface of the jeep, pelts me like fine rain. The salt air is heavy and I can see the cloud of mist rising from the surf long before I reach the water. The seats are cold on my bare back and legs. The vehicle lacks a windshield, allowing bugs to hit my face and chest. Texas is a buggy place. That’s a fact we live with.
I park near the pier and see that two of my friends Gwen and Gary are kneeling in the sand, waxing their boards. I am usually the first to arrive but today they beat me by a few minutes. I join them in the preparation. We are quiet. This will be a good morning and making small talk might interfere with our zone.
The Gulf of Mexico is glassy and clear. The swell is four feet, with a right break. We enter as a group of three and paddle out past the second sand bar.
Sitting on my surfboard, I see the first half of the sun rising over the ocean and feel the warmth on my upper body. A tanker ship is a few miles offshore. The smoke from its stack gives us a point to paddle to.
Today will be hot, and by noon, these beautiful waves will evaporate into a slushy shore break full of children on foam belly boards. But this morning, the three of us are working in concert with our beloved Gulf.
We ride for hours. The ocean is feisty this morning. The waves are doing their best to beat us, but we show them who the boss is. The beach fills with other surfers, and now the line-up is crowded,, and we ride into shore. Gary and Gwen leave, and I make my way home to go fishing with my father. The Kingfish await.
Gary and Gwen are gone now and have been for some time. Gary lost in Vietnam, and Gwen from an auto accident the next summer on his way to the island. If they were still here, I would like to think that we would have kept in touch and shared our surfing stories around a good glass of bourbon at Shorty’s Bar. Three old men telling lies.