Hang 10 Ya’ll - Photographer Captures Texas’ Surf Culture

Kenny Braun's life changed the day his next-door neighbors came home with a pair of surfboards.

It was the mid-1970s, and from then on Braun's life in Houston centered around strapping boards on the car and driving south to Galveston. He and his two high school buddies were far from the first to catch waves along the Texas Gulf Coast, but they were early members of the Texas surf scene. Since then Texas has become one of the top six states for surfing in the country. "We didn't even know what we were doing," said Braun, now a professional photographer based in Austin. "We'd mostly go to Surfside because the big jetties help set up the sand bars better."  The University of Houston auditorium used to show surfing movies like "Endless Summer" on the weekends. "The auditorium was full of other surfers," Braun said. "You watch and try long enough, and you get the hang of it. One good ride, one good turn is all you need, and you're hooked. There's just something about sliding down these walls of water."

Braun's decades of familiarity with the Texas surf culture are on display in "Surf Texas," published by the University of Texas Press this spring. In it, he captures the euphoric highs of carving the waves - in one shot, a trio of surfers are joined by a dolphin - as well as the quieter moments of hanging out on the beach, all presented in a nostalgic black and white. "Texas surfers have to be more patient. They have to settle for lesser waves," Braun said. "We know there's better surf breaks out there, but Texas is our home break, so we love it."

When Braun started out as a photographer in the mid-1990s, shooting surfers from the beach was a passion project and an excuse to return to his beloved shores. Since then, he's photographed surfers and the beaches they populate from Galveston to South Padre Island. The beaches along the southern Texas coast, he said, have the best and the most consistent waves, especially when a distant storm churns up the calm Gulf of Mexico waters.

One sight that's unique to Galveston is tanker surfing, a sport reportedly invented by Galveston's James Fulbright and his friends that involves riding along the shoulder of a wave created by a tanker ship on its way to the Port of Houston.

"Galveston Bay is perfectly shaped and formed geographically, with the ship channel at one end and open gulf on the other. When these fully loaded oil tankers come in through the bay, they make these beautiful, shoulder-high waves you can ride for 20 minutes," Braun said. "It's really mellow because you see the wave coming forever and it breaks in the shallow bay. It's the perfect setup for a nice ride."

Braun says that in his years of surfing along the Texas coast, the only changes he's seen are that surfers have gotten better at watching weather patterns to predict good waves and that there are overall a lot more surfers in Texas now than when he started back in the '70s.

"There are more surfers in Texas now than there are cowboys," Braun said. "Most people don't realize it because they go to the beach in the summer when the waves are flat and nothing is going on. Usually people make excuses for the beaches here: 'Oh, it's not California; it's not Florida.' I'm not making excuses. I love it."


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Air and Sea Chase Lands Haul of 16 Sharks and Dozens of Snapper


U.S. Coast Guard officials have intercepted a group of Mexican fishermen and seized a haul of 16 sharks and 45 snapper after a 40 minute chase in 4 foot seas off South Padre Island.

The boat was one of five spotted fishing illegally in U.S. waters north of the Mexican border, the Coast Guard said. Four others escaped.

An Ocean Sentry airplane first spotted two boats near the U.S./Mexico maritime border 30 miles from shore. Three further fishing vessels were sighted 42 miles from South Padre Island.

A Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack patrol boat was deployed with helicopter support.  After a 40-minute chase crews succeeded in boarding one vessel.  The crew admitted illegal fishing according to a Coast Guard news release.

Over 500 pounds of fish were seized; 16 small sharks weighing 231 pounds and 45 snapper weighing 378 pounds.



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Inaugural Beerfest Taps South Padre Island

The first SPI Beer Fest will take place Saturday Aug. 23 at the convention center from 6 p.m. - midnight.
The event will showcase over 200 beers ranging in styles, flavors and breweries. Tickets can be purchased at There will be a $100 VIP, $20 General Admission (Pre-sale), $30 General Admission (at the door), $30 Designated Driver VIP Band, $10 Designated Driver Band General Admission.
Due to the recent rise in craft and speciality beers SPI Beer Fest promises to give the a one-of-a-kind opportunity to sample a wide range of beers, speak to brew masters and learn about home brewing.
The event came together when members of the SPI Beer Fest board were talking about how many beer festivals they had been involved with over the years.
“We wanted to do something at South Padre Island because it's the Valley's playground,” XXXX Gaby Jones said. “You can get people from Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco, McAllen and anybody to go to South Padre.”
The event will also feature live music and cuisine from the Rio Grande Valley's most popular restaurants. The headliner for the event will be Clarissa Serna, who was featured on NBC's The Voice and was part of Team Shakira. Other bands include The BrownsVillians, Chris Marshall, Rockstar Denied, Tragedy N April, Moonstar, Issac & the Gentlemen and Costello.
A portion of the proceeds from SPI Beer Fest will benefit Sea Turtle Inc., whose mission is to rescue, rehabilitate and release injured sea turtles, educate the public and assist with conservation efforts for all marine turtle species.
“We wanted to (benefit) something local and that was on the island,” Jones said.

Franke, Realtors will be offering special rates during this time for visitors to the area. Call Franke Realtros at 956-761-2606 for details and more information and mention BEERFEST2014.


Pedro Perex IV


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If You Practice Beach Safety - Accidents Can Be Prevented

Accidents and drownings at the beach are preventable, but prevention requires awareness, officials say
There have been five drownings on South Padre Island beaches this year, including a Harlingen man who drowned on June 6.
Two occurred within the Island’s city limits, the SPI Fire Department said. Three others were at county beach accesses, Cameron County Parks Police said.
“A lot of our visitors aren’t used to the beach or the currents. Sometimes they’ll get into the currents and panic, which causes a lot of problems. But a lot of people come here who don’t know how to swim,” SPI Fire Chief Marcus Smith said.
Smith said basic steps such as checking the weather and paying attention to warning flags go a long way. Beachgoers also should be wary of wildlife, such as jellyfish, watch for rip currents and check for injuries if a swimmer is caught in a current.
The warning flag system uses three colors: red, which means heavy surf and dangerous currents; yellow, which signals a common to moderate surf; and blue, which warns to watch for wildlife.
If a person gets into trouble, or witnesses a distressed swimmer, they should call 911 or flag down a lifeguard, Smith said.
“If you have anything that can float, throw it to them,” he said. “There’s almost always something on the beach they can use.”
Parks Police Chief Horacio Zamora said beach injuries are preventable, but require smart decision-making.
“Still, sometimes if you’re doing everything right, and you get caught in a current, it’s very easy to drown, especially if you panic,” Zamora said. “Swimming against the current makes it worse.”
In that case, swimmers must swim parallel to the current or let the current take you where it takes you, Michael Johnson, Chief of Cameron County Beach Patrol said.
Officials advise that you stay calm.
“The currents don’t pull downwards. The people make themselves tired by swimming against the current,” he added. “Let it take you where it takes you. If you’re at a skill level to swim, swim parallel to shore.”
The current could pull you offshore. In that case, you might be noticed and be rescued, officials said.
Ultimately, the key to preventing drownings is more education, Johnson said.


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Sea Turtles Returned to Wild

About 30 persons, a mix of Sea Turtle, Inc. staff, interns, volunteers, two NOAA representatives and one from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife, braved rough seas on June 28 that left many on the boat feeling as green as seaweed.
Their mission during the early hours before dawn was to release 94 Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, and four hawksbills, into the wild.
The four hawksbills were rehabilitated turtles from Sea Turtle, Inc. that were ready for release.
The 94 ridleys were born on here in August 2013 and were sent to Florida for use in National Marine Fisheries research on turtle excluder devices, also known as TEDs.
TEDs are special devices used in shrimp trawl nets that enables sea turtles to escape from the catch before drowning.
Due to the large amounts of bycatch, which are animals that are unintentionally caught, the U.S. set laws in 1987 requiring all shrimping vessels to use TED nets.
The device has a set of bars in the net opening that will not allow anything larger than the space between the bars to pass through, which saves larger turtles.
But there has been some concern as to whether small turtles, such as those in their first years, could pass through the device, which is what the NMF research project investigated.
The Osprey, one of Osprey Cruises deepsea fishing boats, took the turtles and turtle staff 15 miles offshore for release in an area where sargassum floats are common.
These young turtles rely on the sargassum as a food source and protection from predators.
Releasing sea turtles into the wild is one key part of Sea Turtle, Inc.’s mission. As a sea turtle hospital, education center, and conservation nonprofit organization, any turtle that can be released into the wild is a victory.
“Sea turtles return to their natal beaches as adults,” Jeff George, STI’s executive director, said. “The Texas coast is established as an important nesting habitat for the recovery of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles.
“It is important that they were released here, and return here to nest, so they can contribute to the recovery of their species,” George said.
It takes 12 years before the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are ready to reproduce.
“All the turtles were tagged,” he said, “and hopefully 11 years from now, we will see these same Kemp’s ridleys on our beaches, nesting.”



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DPS Cracking Down on Drunk Driving Over July 4th Weekend

The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is cracking down  on drunk driving this fourth of July holiday weekend.

Troopers are focusing on areas that are high-risk and will patrol those areas at times when alcohol related crashes are most frequent.

State statistics show every 20 minutes a person is killed or hurt in an alcohol-related crash.

The Fourth of July crackdown is annual effort but comes as DPS recently began a surge along the Texas-Mexico border.

The operation is meant to combat crime and mexican cartels.

It’s expected to last through the end of this year.

DPS is remaing tight-lipped about how the allocated $1.3 million  a week is being spent during the surge but a DPS official gave a firm warning to Valley residents regarding the DWI crackdown.

"Dont drink and drive because you will be, its a $2,000 fine and a 180 days in jail and you can loose your license for up to a year,” DPS spokesman Sgt. Johnny Hernandez said.

During last years DWI crackdown more than a thousand DWI suspects were arrested and DPS troopers handed out more than 15,000 speeding tickets.

Local police departments are also participating in this holiday DWI crackdown.

The DWI patrols have already started and will last through July 7th.

Franke, Realtors wishes all of its guests a safe and memorable stay on South Padre Island. We encourage everyone to drive with care while on the roads and always drink responsibly. Have a happy and safe Fourth of July Weekend!!!


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Hundreds of Dead Sharks Found Off Waters of South Padre Island


A Coast Guard crew patrolling in the Gulf of Mexico off South Padre Island has found an illegal net containing hundreds of dead sharks.

A Coast Guard statement Tuesday says the 5-mile-long gill net was found loaded with 345 dead sharks about 17miles north of the U.S.-Mexican border.

Gill nets are illegal throughout Texas, and Coast Guard Cmdr. Daniel Deptula described the nets as "wasteful." He says such fishing methods already have depleted Mexican fisheries, causing fishing crews to move into U.S. waters in search of fish.

In 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available, Coast Guard Sector Corpus Christi has seized more than 49 miles of gill net.


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The 2014 Infiniti Q50S Meets South Padre


With summer upon us let's face it the travel bug has likely gotten the best of you, right? No worries, since there's a place down south in Texas that has just the cure for warm weather fever and good fun.

South Padre Island, you'll know you have arrived when you cross the bridge and end up in paradise. Indeed, it's a place where the weather will make you smile. After all, with an average temperature of 65 degrees; breezy summers that average around 82 degrees and 253 days of sunshine who can argue with perfection. The South Padre Island area of Texas is the perfect place to enjoy activities such as bird watching, dolphin watching and an array of additional water activities from snorkeling to surfing to scuba diving to, even learning about the endangered sea turtle.

And what better way to enjoy it than behind the wheel of a 2014 Infiniti Q50. Priced right beginning at $37,150 the overall miles per gallon is about 23 combined with 20 miles per gallon in the city and 29 miles per gallon on the highway. For the Q50 Hybrid version it's 29 miles per gallon in the city and 36 miles per gallon on the highway.

All new from the Infiniti folks too, the 2014 Infiniti Q50 is replacing the G37 sedan and with that it's an all new design and name along with new styling and technology. As an entry-level luxury sport sedan, the Q50 also comes in the hybrid version with the competition including the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Cadillac ATS and the Mercedes-Benz C Class.

The 2014 Infiniti Q50 is offered in Base, Premium and Sport trims while the Q50 Hybrid is offered in the Premium and Sport trims only, each with the all-wheel drive available, but the standard being rear-wheel-drive.

Under the hood, the 2014 Infiniti Q50 has a 3.7-liter V6 engine with 328 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque. For the hybrid version there is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that works in conjunction with a 50-kilowatt electric motor running with a lithium-ion battery that puts out 354 horsepower. All the 2014 Q50s are automatic with seven-speed only.

Every Infiniti Q50 sedan comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, front side and side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Many of the added features on the 2014 Q50 also touts safety depending on the packages with extras like the 360-degree parking camera system, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot/lane departure warning and prevention and a forward/back-up collision warning system.

While the 2014 Infiniti Q50 is a new design and name, this vehicle still continues to uphold the tradition of a classy cabin interior with high-end materials and either aluminum or wood accents. There is also plenty of room in the front and back seats and the seats are built for comfort as well. On the Sport trim the front seats even offer power-adjustable bolsters to create an even stronger positive driving experience.

So, driving around the tropical tip of Texas in South Padre Island you couldn't have more fun as you discover this 34-mile long barrier reef that is about half-a-mile at its widest point and bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Laguna Madre Bay. The only connection to the mainland is a two-and-a-half mile bridge, nevertheless there are about 5,000 inhabitants and as many as one million visitors sweep down on the island every year.

For the perfect weekend take a couple of good friends and plan on good food and beach time or outdoor activities with no interruption.

Franke, Realtors offers luxury and upscale beach houses and condos. Beachfront to bay side…. Franke, Realtors has what you're looking for. 

The South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center ( is another experience that visitors will not want to miss. Outside the center there is 4,800 linear feet of bay-view boardwalks and paths. In the end you can explore as much as 43 acres of freshwater ponds, island scrub brush and saltwater marshes. For the real birdie at heart, there are seven bird blinds to get up close and personal to one of the many species that come through this area throughout the year.

Home to many Sea Turtles in various phases of rehabilitation, Sea Turtles on South Padre located on Padre Boulevard is a non-profit sea turtle rescue center founded in 1977. There are a number of different species of sea turtles both endangered and threatened who call this place home, including the rarest, the Kemp's Ridley. Offering educational presentations, these folks try to release the turtles back into the wild when they can, however, some turtles seem to want to stay at the rehab center forever and that's okay too.

Eco Tours or a good dolphin watch experience is an option and you're bound to see one of the cute little creatures. Find one of boats that leave from the pier and you'll be fine for a day or half-day excursion.


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TxDot Offers Safety Tips for July 4th Weekend

The Fourth of July holiday is this week, and AAA estimates 2.5 million Texans will be hitting the roads.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, people spend more time traveling on the nation's roadways during the summer months than any other time of year. The Texas Department of Transportation released tips for drivers while traveling to summertime events and family vacations.

Tips for highway driving

Always obey posted speed limits and drive to conditions, including rain and work zones.
Move over when you approach a stopped emergency vehicle, tow truck or TxDOT vehicle with lights flashing. If safely switching lanes is not possible, slow down 20 miles per hour below the posted speed limit. It's the law.
Keep a safe following distance behind the vehicle in front of you. You never know when you might need to make a sudden stop.
Drive with your lights on so you are more visible to oncoming traffic.
Watch for motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians as they are more prevalent in warm weather.
Tips to prevent drowsy driving

Never drink alcohol or take sedating medications before driving.
Get adequate sleep.
Schedule breaks about every 100 miles or every two hours. Get out and stretch your legs, but never leave a child unattended in your vehicle.
For long trips, travel with a companion who you can help you stay alert and share the driving.
Tips to prevent driving aggressively

Plan ahead and allow enough time for delays.
Drive the speed limit.
Don't tailgate or flash your lights at another driver.
If you do encounter an angry driver, don't engage. Give angry drivers plenty of room, avoid eye contact and if you're concerned for your safety, call 911.


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Pirates rock the galleon in South Padre Black Dragon ship offers family adventure in South Padre

PORT ISABEL - A moist breeze with a hint of fish scale wafted through the Pirate's Landing Fishing Pier as Ruby the Pirate Queen, dressed more like a wench, put her juggling skills on display.

First the cascade (the classic ball-tossing pattern with which most people are familiar), then she juggled bowling pins while balancing on a plant atop a barrel - absolute necessities for survival aboard a pirate ship.

"Owww," she yelped, feigning a sore bottom. "There must be ninja pirates out there, and they're after booty."

Even if the double entendre escaped them, the little scallywags in the audience got a good laugh out of Ruby's antics.

Ruby explained that sea legs are the product of bent knees and a gentle sway. She then fired a 9-pound "gollywobbler" cannon, our cue to step aboard the Black Dragon pirate ship, a replica of a 17th-century galleon, capable of handling as many as 80 crew members.

I had invited my wife and two young daughters along for the trip, thinking they'd get a kick out of a pirate show, but my 4-year-old, Matilda, was clearly not feeling the pirate vibe.

"Papa," she whispered to me without taking her eyes off of Roba Todo (Robs Everything), the first mate. "I want to get off the boat."

But it was too late; the Black Dragon was unmoored, and, within a matter of minutes, the ship was slicing through the blue waters of South Padre Bay.

We were introduced to the rest of the crew, including Nina and Captain No Beard, and the essentials of living by the pirate code. The most important rule aboard the Black Dragon, we learned, is equal shares in pirate treasure.

Between swashbuckling sword fights and water pistol battles were stories of pirate lore, a bit of sightseeing and even dolphin watching.

With the breeze to our backs and the thunderous clap of cannon fire keeping rival ships at a safe distance, the bar was opened, serving an assortment of grub and grog such as sodas, beer and, of course, rum.

Matilda had a scar painted on her cheek and a shark tattoo painted on her arm. Her older sister, Ana, 7, had a mustache painted on her lip and a skull and crossbones tattoo on her forearm.

Our pirate adventure had gone by in a flash.

As we returned to Pirate's Landing Pier, Matilda - battle-hardened, weighted down with pirate booty, and a newly anointed member of the crew - had an air of confidence about her.

"Papa," she said. "I'm not scared anymore

By Aaron M. Nelsen


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