Surfing Through Texas History
By the 1960s the world was crazy for surfing. All eyes were on Hawaii, Australia and California for the waves, women and the lifestyle that surfers lived in and out of the water. So much of it was popularized in movies and music that just about everyone wanted in on the action. One of the most interesting aspects of this phenomenon is that it birthed a regional stoke for every community that was lucky enough to catch a swell.
For Brad Lomax, a Corpus Christi restaurateur and founder of the Texas Surf Museum, the untold history of wave sliding in the Lone Star State is all too familiar. “You put the words “surf” and “Texas” together and no one connects them. It’s an oxymoron!” he laughs with a gentlemanly drawl. “You really have to be an optimist with low standards and a strong back to be a Texas surfer.”
As a kid, Lomax had family in ‘Corpus’, as he says it for the sake of brevity as any local surfer would who has an affinity for where they grew up. Cecil Laws is a name most associated with the birth of Texas surfing and Lomax also recalls a vibrant scene that grew organically with a number of surf shops dotted up and down the coast. “The music of The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and all the goofy surfing movies at the time inspired me to pick up an 8’6” Gordon and Smith ‘Hot Curl’ in 1967. From then I was hooked,” he remembers.
A few decades later, Lomax connected with Pat McGee a veteran pioneer surf shop owner from a town called Port Aransas. With McGee’s help he not only wanted to create an attraction to pay homage to his lifetime as a surfer but to also help educate and inspire future generations. McGee’s collection of surf ephemera was so vast that it almost painted a complete picture of the history of Texas surfing. Eleven years ago the Texas Surf Museum was born.
Through the Lone Star State lens, Lomax also enlisted the help of Dan and Michelle Parker, a husband and wife team—a reporter and a photographer—to tell the story of Texas surfing in a series of exhibits. ‘Texas Women. Texas Waves’ gave a voice to the gals who were surfing and winning contests the world over. ‘Big Shots: The Work of South Texas Photographers’ highlighted shooters like Jon Steele, who still snaps for surfing magazines today. Lomax has also taken his guests on a trip through the 60s and 70s time traveling with some original shapes made in and around Corpus. One of his favorite artifacts is a canvas surfboard from the 50s sourced from an issue of Popular Mechanics Magazine. “It looks like a damn airplane wing!” he says.
Stewardship is also central to the mission of the museum. A lot of his time is spent on educating future generations on common questions they have about the ocean. "As a surfer you're a born conservationist and have an awareness of what goes on in the ocean,” he adds enthusiastically. The Harte Research Institute is a partner in an ongoing initiative to enlighten the “science of surfing.”
Between all this it’s hard to imagine he has time to paddle out but Lomax assures that he’s “in the water at least once a week when there's something to catch." "It's like sex at my age; it's not pretty but I can do it!"
Visit the Texas Surfing Museum For More Info: http://www.texassurfmuseum.org/
Words by: Dustin A. Beatty