Texas Beaches

Beach Umbrellas: A Primer

A good umbrella can be hard to find.

By Jeff Balke June 14, 2017 Published in the July 2013 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Image: Shutterstock

As our EZ-Up tent lay crumpled under the weight of the fierce Gulf winds, my girlfriend and I stared at each other. Neither of us can stand much direct sunlight; we burn too easily. But the wind was just too strong on Surfside Beach for the canopy. 

A quick trip to the local beach shop for an umbrella would do the trick, or so we thought. Sadly, that horrid excuse for a parasol disintegrated, along with our good moods, within seconds. Discouraged, we headed to Galveston for a margarita to soothe our nerves, frayed like the edges of that last piece of junk.

Dotting the beaches there were umbrellas standing perfectly still against the gale. At that moment I made it my mission to find the beach umbrella of our dreams, one that could handle the Texas coastline’s occasionally hostile tropical winds. I furiously searched the Internet and finally decided on an eight-foot beach umbrella with good reviews for under $100. Sold. 

A few weeks later, we were back in Surfside with a lovely blue-and-white sunshade anchored deep into the sand, but would it hold? We waited nervously as the first stiff gusts hit. It flickered gently, unaffected. We smiled, our prayers answered. We looked around and laughed at how jealous the other beach-goers must be of our good fortune.

Almost two years later, that umbrella is still going strong. We went through that pain so you don’t have to. Herewith, the key elements to a killer beach umbrella:

  • Vents: Allows air to pass through the umbrella instead of turning it inside out.
  • Anchors: Corkscrew into the sand to keep the umbrella from uprooting and blowing away.
  • Fiberglass ribs: Gives the umbrella a sturdy structure. Wood is great but super-expensive. Fiberglass is a perfectly fine alternative.
  • UV-Protected canopy: Prevents the sun’s harmful rays from penetrating the umbrella. Many now come with SPF 50 or higher protection built in.
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