From calm, shallow bay waters to Gulf of Mexico waves, South Padre Island’s unique setting provides world-class conditions for several popular water sports year-round. The Island offers windsurfing, kiteboarding, surfing, kayaking, and diving opportunities for all experience levels, from beginners to experts.
Subtropical temperatures and consistent winds averaging 18 miles per hour make South Padre Island an ideal setting for both windsurfing and kiteboarding.
Windsurfing combines elements of sailing and surfing, with a rider perched on a board equipped with a rotating sail. In the new and fast-growing sport of kiteboarding, a rider’s feet are strapped to a board as a large kite propels the craft. The rider must control both the board and the kite.
With a water depth of approximately three feet, the waters of the Laguna Madre Bay on the Island’s western shore make an ideal, beginner-friendly training ground while also offering great conditions for more experienced enthusiasts. This is the location of one of South Padre Island’s premier windsurfing and kiteboarding and spots, including the South Flats, a wide expanse of sand flats along the Laguna Madre Bay. As one South Padre Island instructor calls it, the area is considered “the single most amazing combination of wind, water, and land in North America.”
More experienced windsurfers and kiteboarders can find plenty of challenge off the Island’s eastern shore in the Gulf of Mexico. Gulf waves are easily accessed at the jetties at the southern end of the Island. In addition, “backcountry” windsurfing and kiteboarding is an option on the Island’s undeveloped northern beaches.
Another fast-growing sport, Stand Up Paddleboarding, or SUP, is also well suited for the Island’s waters and a great option for windless days. Paddleboarders stand on an extra-stable, long, wide surfboard and propel themselves with a long paddle. Several spots around the Island are also ideal for kayaking. The Island offers equipment rentals and instructors for all of these activities.
Surfing is also popular throughout the year. In fact, South Padre Island is home to the only year-round professional surfing instructors in Texas. Lessons are available daily on the Island, along with one-day surf camps that teach people from preschoolers to senior citizens how to surf (at one surf school, each camper receives an action photo of themselves riding the waves as a souvenir).
While beginners and families will find South Padre’s waves inviting, more experienced surfers will appreciate the challenges that the Gulf waves bring, and the Island is considered by many to offer the finest surfing in the state. In fact, the Texas State Surfing Championships take place each March at South Padre Island, a tradition more than 40 years old.
The Island’s adventures continue under the waves. South Padre Island offers adventure-packed options for snorkelers and divers as well.
For divers, there is the U.S.T.S. Texas Clipper, a 473-foot ship that was sunk 17 miles off South Padre Island in November 2007. This artificial reef experience offers something for divers of every skill level. Because of its size, divers can make repeated visits to the site and find something new each time.
The Texas Clipper is just one of several area dive features in the waters near South Padre Island, including 40 shipwrecks and 16 oil and gas rigs that allow views of sea life such as tropical fish, red snapper, turtles, even sharks.