South Padre Island – Humidity, Sand, Ramen, and a Little Bit of Wind (and a lack of babes)

As you have probably figured out by now, we are wind junkies. We will drive thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars on gas and gear, just to get a single day of (in)consistent wind. There is nothing better than a long windy day out on the water, despite the numerous days that we have been skunked. Actually, this was the beginning of Zach’s kiteboarding career, so we didn’t quite now how uncanny he was as killing wind. No joke, it is upsetting. But we were naive  it was March 2012, and we were tired of our capstone design projects and itching to get out on the water. After far too much procrastination with our school work, our research showed that the best place in the U.S. for wind and warmth was the southern coast of Texas.  Well thats it! We had a plan! Texas. With that in mind (and no more planning than a general notion of where Texas is relative to Colorado), it was decided.

So on Thursday after school we haphazardly strapped the surfboards to the top of the car and stuffed all of the random gear that two college kids can’t survive without into the back of the 4runner. Armed with Ramen-a-plenty, way too much old windsurfing gear, cameras, and a new Orson Scott Card audiobook, we were off! Right about as we hit chapter 3 or Pathfinder, we realized that we actually had no idea how to get to Texas. I mean, its pretty hard to miss, and from what little I remember of the world, it had to lie somewhere south and east of Boulder, Colorado. Somewhere near the pan handle in Oklahoma, we got the orignal navigation app: an actual US road atlas. Now with an actual sense of direction, the party began. Stopped for a quick sunset shot, dodging semi trucks on the highway to really get the gem of a 4runner at her best :

After that, the true driving really began. We finally hit Texas, and after about 5 minutes of congratulating ourselves that we had almost made it, we realized we still had the entire state of Texas to drive across. Luckily, Stefan Rudnicki’s reading of  Pathfinder was pretty spectacular (and the book was awesome too!) and we plowed onwards. We would switch driving every tank of gas or so, and soon found ourselves in the middle of rural Texas at about 4:00 in the morning. Fueled by gas station energy drinks, we kept on trucking and eventually reached Corpus Christi, TX at about 10:00 on Friday morning. A solid 19 hours of driving down, and we were ravenous. We pulled into the nearest Mexican restaurant, and were served our first taste of Texas Mexican food. Turns out it has huge portions, is often smothered in something like cheese or gravy or both, and always comes with a swimming pool sized cup. And there is always a drive through. We mucked through, and lead bellies be damned, it was time to hit the beach!

The wind forecast looked good, and we had heard that Corpus had some decent sailing/kiting on the ocean side of things. We unloaded all of our stuff, to reach the gear we had put at the bottom and rigged up our sails/kites. Of course we weren’t used to the hot, humid air and found that we just could not get enough wind to get up and planing. It was the first real taste we had of Zach’s wind killing abilities. Staring at current wind reports and forecasts, directly contradicting the actual state of the wind. All we got out of it was a great photo opportunity of Zach looking grumpy trying to launch his kite:

After the wind mellowed down, this turned into a feed the seagulls photo op. This turned out to be a common theme for the trip. All the girls in Texas were determined to ignore us, but the seagulls were happy to socialize!

Grumpy, tired, and dejected we set out to spend our first night on the beach. We found a unoccupied spot, in the miles of driveable beach and unloaded the gear. Usually this meant throwing all of our wet gear onto the ground to get to the cooler and the stove. We also tried to light a fire from the wet driftwood scattered around the beach. This involved dumping copius amounts of lighter fluid onto the smoldering logs to try and get it to light. It didn’t really ever catch, until the middle of the night when we woke up to find a raging bonfire in our sandy firepit. Awesome. Guess the logs just needed some time. Twas our first night camping on a hot humid Texas beach. Kinda nice, but also kinda wet and miserable ha!

We woke up with our sleeping bags completely soaked from the insane humidity, without any hint of a breeze. We decided we had enough of Corpus Christi. The wind forecast looked good for South Padre Island, so we packed up the truck and headed south in search of wind. Driving into South Padre Island was a much more pleasant experience for us, mainly because we hadn’t driven through the night and we were somewhat rested. We already had a feeling that our moods and wind prospects would improve here.

That night we found our way onto the SPI beach in search of another campspot. We found out that the beach is the party place for all of the Mexicans. So we had to drive past thousands of partying Mexicans blasting loud music from their pimped out cars to reach an “uninhabited” chunk of beach. It was crazy. Here are some shots Zach took. You can see how humid it was:

The next morning we woke up to enjoy a nice chocolate pie with whipped cream for breakfast. Nutritious and tasty!

We then degraded into the usual activity of taking sunglasses reflection shots of Zach with the mustache. The results actually turned out pretty cool with the morning fog.

Shenanigans aside, it was time to get some wind! We spent the day trying to windsurf/kiteboard, but we were again stumped. Had a few very brief windows where Zach could get planing before the wind died again. Gave him a great chance to show off his WMTS (white man thighs syndrome). Of course, with some more bird feeding along the way.

Before we packed up though, there was an expert kiter with a big kite who was able to cruise around while we creepily took pictures of him. Worked out though, and Zach got some of his favorite shots ever.

More days, more of the same. Sitting on the beach, waiting for the unheard-of seasonally low winds to pick up. We finally found the big windsurfing and kite spot and got to hang out with the locals. Tequila, books, sunburns, and Pierce’s accidental photobombing.

Finally, we got a day of somewhat decent wind. Still wasn’t what the forecasts and SPI history says it should be, but it was there. Barely enough to really get up on the board. Turned out to be enough to get noob Zach far away from shore, as his upwind skills were pretty shoddy. So every run he took he had to walk back through the shallow waters for almost a mile. Pierce was able to get planing on his big windsurfer though for a few days.

Zach had one decent run. And by decent I mean pretty bad. It was his 2nd time kiting. Without enough wind, on a light-wind, somewhat advanced board. So there was a nice fail at about 3:23 in this video.

That night, we discovered one of our favorite tricks for beach days. Leaving out a big jug of water in the sun makes for a great warm-water rinse at the end of the day, made only better by the fashionable poses they invoked. Project Runway requiters, please contact us via the normal channels.

Still in the mood for some goof-tardedness, we decided to try one of Zach’s favorite photoshoots. Awkward-trying-to-be-epic jumping shots. As you can see below, the biggest rule in photography holds especially true here.

Bad lighting:

Good lighting:

And birds cheering

After that it was about time to head back to Boulder. The next day we packed up the gear, and headed back home. It was a mostly uneventful drive. We did stop for a nice roadside Ramen meal at about 2am. It was probably the low point of my life, when Pierce spilled the Ramen on the blacktop. Out of food, money, and hungry as wolves, we scooped it up and put it back in our bowls. We gritted through the gravel and dirt, but it was pretty damn good. After dinner, we enjoyed some banjo playing. 5 star meal if you ask me.

So all in all, it was wet, windless, hot, and humid. And totally awesome. We’re about to go back for round 2, so we thought we’d share last year’s trip in this post.

Thanks for reading!

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