Australian embraces the island life and the surf
It’s no wonder Damien McDonald is at home in sand and surf — he has spent his life surrounded by beach. Like most teens growing up on Australia’s Gold Coast, McDonald’s favorite pastime was riding waves.
At age 41, his life still is centered around surfing, but it’s here on the upper Texas coast, where he’s settled with his family.
McDonald met his wife, native Galvestonian Anna Raimer, on a blind date set up by a surfing buddy of his and a roommate of hers. Raimer was studying abroad for a semester at law school — Bond University — the same one McDonald was attending in Australia. She returned to the states to continue her studies, and McDonald followed after his graduation. They were married in Hawaii in 2007 and settled first in California and then on Galveston Island, where Raimer’s family had long been established. The McDonalds live in Galveston with their four children: 9-year-old twins Jack and Archer; Byron, 6; and Zoe, 2.
“There’s a great surfing community and I wanted to be a part of it,” McDonald said. “There are some concrete surfers here. The waves may not be the best or the biggest in the world, but the Texas coast has produced some solid surfers — surfers that go on to compete all over the world.”
McDonald enjoys teaching beginners and his boys already are avid surfers, he said.
“They love it,” he said. “They’ve all competed in the Texas Gulf Surfing Association contests. I’m taking them surfing in Costa Rica this month.”
McDonald offers lessons from his Galveston store, Southern Spears Surf Shop.
He suggests surfing Galveston during a higher tide and says the best time to surf is early in the morning, when the wind is lighter. He has favorite surfing spots.
“Some of the best waves on the island are off the Pleasure Pier,” McDonald said. “The lights are going off all around you. There are spectators and music. The beach is crowded. It all lends to this carnival-like atmosphere.”
Although he prefers surfing a shortboard, he suggests a longboard on Galveston because the waves are relatively small.
“Longboarding is a different approach to surfing and is more focused on style, compared to shortboarding, which is more about speed and hard turns,” he said.
He enjoys the sense of freedom and clarity that surfing brings, he said.
“You’re thinking about the wave and not worrying about every other aspect of your life,” he said. “There’s a single-mindedness that keeps you in that moment.”
And, it’s not just about making a living, he said.
“It’s about living clean,” he said.
McDonald has been keen on protecting oceans and beaches since he was a teenager in Australia as a member of the Surfrider Foundation. He is a founding member and past president of the Galveston chapter of the world-wide organization and also has adopted a strip of beach on Seawall Boulevard where he hosts several beach cleanups every year.
“I’ve always loved the surfing lifestyle,” McDonald said. “It’s a healthy lifestyle. Something I plan on enjoying into my old age.”