Texas Tanker Surfing

The idea of an endless wave - or at the very least, one that can go on for miles - is something of a surfer’s white whale. A pipe dream, you might even say. But if you know the proper locations, and have access to a chase boat, such a thing does exist. And to ride that wave, you’re going to need to be hot on the trail of a massive oil tanker.

In Galveston Bay, at the entrance to the Houston Ship Channel, oil tanker surfing has become something of a local sport. Admittedly, the wake of a passing tanker off the Texas coast does not produce anything akin to the Banzai Pipeline, but it does have one very special thing going for it: the waves are long. Sometimes even a mile or more, with rides that can last minutes on end. And unlike conventional wake surfing, this doesn’t take place directly behind the boat, but hundreds of yards off to the side—the ship captains don’t even know the rush their own ripples are causing, and you don’t have to get too much oil in your hair.

And then there is the leisure aspect as well. In addition to the long, thoughtful rides on mile-long waves, there is also plenty of down time between passing tankers. Down time that can be judiciously spent deck-side with a cold beer, soaking up a little Gulf sunshine, and scoping out the next passing ship as it takes some of that Texas Tea to market.

Black & white photography courtesy of Kenny Braun. Click here to see more of his work.