Surfing is a timeless sport, but increased in popularity during the 1950s and '60s. Today, surfers have taken over the beaches of Australia, California, Hawaii, Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, and Texas. Yes, Texas.
Although the Lone Star state is not the first option that comes to mind, Austin-based photographer Kenny Braun claims it’s ranked the sixth most favored surfing destination in the country. With a deep connection to Texas’ commonly mild waves and a passion for photography, Braun combined his two interests in his recent book Surf Texas, which features pictures of the state’s surf culture. “I think the Texas Gulf Coast has its own unique feel and personality,” says Braun. “The book is much about a sense of place than a sense of surfing.”
Braun was raised in Houston and took up surfing in the mid-1970s, a time when “you had to be willing to drop everything and go, because when [the waves] are good in Texas, they’re not good for long.” He made his way to Galveston and Surfside Beach for about 10 years, and then entered the University of Texas in the '80s to study photography. In 1996, he established his own business in Austin.
Heavily missing the Gulf Coast, Braun began Surf Texas as a personal project and form of meditation to bring back the joys of his former surfer days. He spent 15 years photographing surfers, the ocean, beach goers and the architecture in the towns of Galveston, City of Part Aransas, Corpus Christi, South Padre and Surfside. “I thought I could serve multiple purposes; to reconnect with a good friend I haven’t seen in a long time,” says Braun.
Texas beaches were more than just a friend to Braun, however, as it became a part of his own family. He admits that he brought his two daughters around the surf culture when they were toddlers, also photographing them in the water and including their pictures in Surf Texas.
The photo essay contains photos from 1996 until 2013 that are all printed in black and white. At the time Braun began shooting, he was using film and a dark room to develop his pictures, but he decided to stick with the antiquated look, despite the evolution of photography and rise of colored digital cameras. “There’s some nostalgia there, and the beach never changes,” says Braun. “When you’re standing at the edge and looking at the view, it’s the same.”
Calm waves were not the only shots Braun sought out; he had high aspirations to photograph a decent hurricane swell, which became permissible with the Hurricane Isaac in 2012. “I actually got a friend of mine to take me out through the jetties and he dropped me off there to set up shop,” Braun remembers.
The Catherine Couturier Gallery will showcase photos from Braun’s Surf Texas this upcoming weekend, where Braun will also have a book signing.
May 21 from 6 – 9 p.m. Free. The Catherine Couturier Gallery, 2635 Colquitt St. 713-524-5070. catherinecouturier.com