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Arts & Culture

Surfing the Texas Coast with Photographer Kenny Braun

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The photo book Surf Texas literally began as a dream. Living in Austin in the mid-1990s, Kenny Braun had just started his photography business. He was getting a taste of client-dictated assignments when memories from his childhood would float to him in dreams—particularly, his grandparents farm and the surf along the Texas coastline.

Braun grew up in Houston in the 1970s and ’80s; he was 15 when he began surfing with his friends in Texas, surprisingly one of the top six surf states in the country. They’d drive to Galveston, Surfside, Corpus Christi and even South Padre with little to no money, just to surf. “We were obsessed,” Braun said in an interview with the Current.

He moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas and become a musician. The years passed without a single trip to the coast. He missed it, until he started dreaming. There is a Hasselblad-captured photograph, Surfside Beach, 1996, documenting this period; it’s a sharp, high contrast long-view landscape. The sand appears blinding, and there’s a shiny black SUV perched at the edge of the tide. “The dreams were a starting point, and I began to venture out. I wanted to capture an impression, what is smelled like, what it felt like. I thought I might be onto something with surf,” he explained. “There are a lot of surfers in Texas but little representation.”

Surf Texas is ultimately a near 20-year passion project that spans the transition of photography from film to digital; he worked with Hasselbad, Holga and DSLR cameras. In black-and-white, the waves, the coastline, sea grass and surfers, spanning generations, are timeless. For Braun, there’s nothing particularly distinct about the Texas coast, aside from the vehicles driving on the beach. “The book is really more about the similarities,” he said. It’s an essay on how connected Texas is to surfing. “Texas is known for cowboys, ranchers and oilmen, but we have thousands of surfers, too.”

What began as a personal, somewhat solitary project has evolved into a community catalyst for beach lovers across the state. Since the release of his book, Braun has been amazed; “people have been coming out of the woodwork” to share their memories and their enthusiasm for the Texas coast. Right now, that’s the wave giving him a rush.

Keep up with all of our San Antonio Book Festival coverage, here.

And here's a guide to our five favorite beaches in Texas.


San Antonio Book Festival

Kenny Braun, moderated by Sandy McNab
2:30pm, Sat, April 5
Rogers Hall, Southwest School of Art, Navarro Campus

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