This spotlight brings us to the Gulf Coast of Texas where we chat with Harrison McNeil. Despite the Gulf's fickle and often lackluster waves, Texas is home to a vibrant surf community. Harrison shares how he balances, family, work, and surfing, highlighting how catching a few waves at the start of day fuels his mental resilience, empowering him to take on whatever life has to throw at him.
Q. What got you into surfing and where’s your favorite spot to go?
Harrison - I grew up going to the beach all the time and even lived on Galveston Island for 5 years, but I didn’t start surfing until I moved to Corpus Christi. I bought a paddleboard, and a friend of mine convinced me to try to surf it. Eventually, I got the hang of surfing that boat and progressively worked down to a shortboard. Despite the 350+ miles of Texas coastline, the number of surf spots is few and far between. Most days, we end up at Packery Channel–the swell direction tells us what side. Bob Hall Pier was one of the best waves in the state until Hurricane Hanna took it out in 2020. The county plans to rebuild it, but it will be years until they finish it.
Q. Tell us a little about the Texas surf culture and what is unique about surfing the gulf coast.
Harrison - Texas surf culture is truly unique because we understand that most days, our waves are subpar at best. Despite the wave quality, we are all in search of the same level of stoke as the rest of the surfing world, and it results in a much friendlier environment. Some of our best waves come from hurricanes, which is a nuance of its own. People who don’t surf will never understand wanting a hurricane to enter the Gulf, but the right size and distance away create some real magic!
Q. What does community mean to you and how has surfing shaped your community?
Harrison - The surf community is eclectic, to say the least; the most diverse cross-section of human beings you can find. I share the water with everyone, from university professors and doctors to painters and “handymen.” Regardless of profession, we are all after the same thing. I’ll never forget when the County rolled out the design for the new Bob Hall Pier and how our community expressed their concern with the implications of the break. It was amazing watching everyone from beach bums to engineers advocate for a different design and ultimately win that battle.
Q. With work and family, how do you make sure to fit a surf in your schedule?
Harrison - I work a pretty busy corporate-style job and have one kid with another on the way. Needless to say, squeezing in a session is truly a balancing act. Living in Corpus Christi is great because you are always 15 minutes away from anything. Most days, I can wake up early and squeeze in an hour at first light before heading to the office or back home for family time. On top of that, my three-year-old is taking an interest in surfing. This past summer, I would paddle out with him on the nose of my longboard and catch waves together. It’s a different type of stoke surfing with your kid!
Q. How does going for a surf affect your mood and mindset for the rest of the day?
Harrison - Surfing has become my mental resilience. My job is pretty stressful, but the mornings I start with a few decent waves always give me some extra drive. I can walk into the office, and it doesn’t matter what my boss throws at me or the deadlines I’m up against; knowing there’s still a little bit of sand at the bottom of my dress socks makes everything bearable.
Q. Outside of surfing do you have any other hobbies or passions that keep you grounded?
Harrison - I’m lucky to have one hobby with a three-year-old, but my family keeps me grounded. Knowing they depend on me gives my life purpose, and surfing gives me the mental space to fight through those roadblocks life likes to throw at everyone.
Q. What advice do you have for someone who wants to surf on the Gulf Coast?
Harrison - If you’re going to surf in the Gulf you have to know your abilities. Most of our decent waves come from strong winds, creating unique conditions. 6Ft at 8 seconds sounds terrible to someone on the West Coast, but here the lineup will be packed. Unfortunately, beginners will get drawn out by the crowd and not realize how to deal with the currents that form in a short period swell. The surfers around here boast as many saves as the lifeguards. If you know what you’re doing, however, bring a board with a few extra liters. Come with high hopes and low expectations; let the Gulf of Mexico do the rest.