Austin photographer Kenny Braun grew up surfing the Texas coast. The culture grabbed him by his beach baggies and never let go. "You get that rush – that connection with nature. Surfing is one of the most intimate and poetic connections to it that we have," he says.
But for all of the evocative images of global surf culture, the ones we all know from Hawaii Five-0 and Gidget and Endless Summer, Braun never saw the nuance of Third Coast surf reflected in these impressions. So after years entrenched in the Austin scene, away from his beloved shore, he went home to embark on an art project to honor Texas surf.
"I love the Texas coast," says Braun, "I wanted to have the project be more than just about surf. I wanted to capture the sense of place – impressionistic, like a documentary. Nobody else had treated [the Gulf Coast] like this before."
Chronicle Arts Editor Robert Faires, a native of port town Beaumont, Texas, received our review copy of the UT Press hardback, Surf Texas, Braun's gorgeous coffeetable tribute to the wild outlaw surf. We both marveled at our ol' pal (and Chronicle contributor)'s feat, when Faires knowingly chirped, "Summer Fun!"
In his teens and 20s, Braun surfed legendary spots like the Octagon at Surfside, Bob Hall and Horace Caldwell Piers in the Coastal Bend, High Island on the Bolivar Peninsula, and the jetties bookending the state's coastline in Galveston and Padre. Calling Texas surf spots "legendary" might sound silly to folks who chase the breaks in Hawaii or California, but let us be very clear: There is damn fine surf in Texas.
"I didn't have an agenda," Braun insists. "It was a personal project – not even intended to be a book. It was something I could do to reconnect me with something that I missed, that I loved, and that I thought would make good pictures."
The pictures – a languid series of black-and-white surf shots taken between the mid-Nineties and 2012 – turned out to be real good, even inspiring a special section in an alternative newsweekly ... in a landlocked town.
Sure, we admit, a surf theme for The Austin Chronicle's 2014 Summer Fun issue is this side of weird. But Texas surf culture extends into the Hill Country's active lake life. Ask the sailors, water-skiers, windsurfers, wakeboarders, pleasure crafters, and now, wakesurfers: They know our status as a desireable watersport destination.
This holds true even when we are in profound drought – which we have been for years. Clara Tuma from the LCRA puts 2014 into perspective: "The Onion Creek flood missed the water supply lakes by about 10 miles," she says. "Had it gone a bit more into Lake Travis – what a difference ...." So, despite our winter and spring rains, says Tuma, "We're in for another hot, dry summer."
There is some hope, however, for our (still blazing) early fall. There are increasing chances, according to weather experts, that La Niña may shift into El Niño, which could dump some much-needed buckets of heavenly precipitation into our parched zone.
A photo spread from Kenny Braun's Surf Texas was recently excerpted in Texas Monthly. They beat us to the punch. An art show dedicated to the book is up all summer long at Stephen L. Clark Gallery. Clark, whose West Austin Gallery specializes in regional photography – exactly the sort of handsome, grizzled, sepia-toned Texiana that comes to mind – hosted an opening to coincide with the book's launch. According to Clark, the opening party was the largest in the gallery's two decades history, attended, he says, by the denizens of Central Texas' "secret surf society."
Welcome to Summer Fun 2014! As much as I, personally, would love to dive into a completist's guide to all that is Austin water culture and the greater Texas beach culture at-large (my South Floridian roots are showing), the intention of each Summer Fun issue is to get you daydreaming, dear reader.
We hope that even if you don't feel comfortable on a boat or have zero intention of getting your hair wet that you'll consider putting a toe in and at least letting your mind wander, and maybe get your feet a little sandy. Enjoy!
And as with everything we do, there is so much more online at: austinchronicle.com/summerfun.
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