From boaters to birders, locals share the best gift ideas for the outdoors
Most locals will tell you that living on the upper Texas coast is a gift enough. Still, Coast Monthly canvassed outdoor enthusiasts for the perfect Christmas present ideas.
Galveston artist Gabriel Prusmack loves to spend his holidays surfing whenever he can.
“It’s a great release,” Prusmack said.
“It’s a therapeutic release from the norm, from land.”
For Prusmack, the best surf-related holiday gifts would include the essential gear.
“It’s really hard to surf without a surfboard,” Prusmack said.
Beyond that, the winter surfer could always do with a good wetsuit, he said.
“In the winter, you can’t go out in shorts unless you’re a polar bear,” Prusmack said.
But for Prusmack, the best Christmas present is waking up to a surf, he said. He has surfed every week so far this year, but is looking forward to the winter, too.
“The wintertime comes and it’s even more fun because you get all these awesome cold fronts,” Prusmack said. And that can make for good waves, he said.
One of his best holiday presents came on a Christmas Eve, when he barreled for the first time. That’s a move where a surfer can ride on a wave as it crests over, forming a barrel-like tube around the surfer.
“The wave forms an aqua closet and you’re inside of it looking out,” Prusmack said.
That Christmas Eve, Prusmack surfed under the setting sun, he said.
“It’s the closest you can be to an astronaut,” Prusmack said.
– Keri Heath
Birding enthusiast Cynthia Spence Hughes enjoys birdwatching — and all that goes with it.
A longtime member of birding groups such as the Houston Audubon Society, the Galveston County Audubon Group, Texas Ornithological Society and the Ornithology Group of the Outdoor Nature Club, Hughes has been intrigued with birds for more than 30 years, she said.
Avid birders already have the right clothes, the perfect sun hat and good hiking shoes, so what would someone like herself want for the holidays?
“I would say some of the best gifts for birders are also gifts for the birds,” said Hughes, who is retired and a part-time island resident. “Bird feeders, hummingbird feeders and lots of great seeds are great gifts and can be found at local stores across our area.”
But, above all, personal gifts of time and experience are the most meaningful, Hughes said.
“Near the holidays, my husband, Dan, will suggest a birding excursion to some of our favorite birding spots on the island,” she said. “In December, birding is always excellent in Galveston and we always look for the sandhill cranes and migrant ducks that spend the winter on our barrier island. There’s nothing like watching them as they greet the day.”
Along with such gifts as quality binoculars and cameras at various price points, plants or trees native to the upper Texas coast are lasting gifts for birders who love the outdoors, Hughes said.
“For an unforgettable gift, give your favorite birder a special big day of birding all around Galveston County,” she said. “That way, you can keep track of all the wonderful species of birds you will encounter and the great memories you will make.”
– Angela Wilson
If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day.
If you give a man a fishing guide, he might learn a thing or two.
The goal of any good fishing guide is to guarantee that their customers hook something before they get off the boat for the day, said Brad Panek, co-owner of Swamp Donkey Charters.
If you’re looking to give someone a good day of fishing, hiring a professional to manage a day on the water is one way to go, Panek said.
“If people are coming out here and spending some good money, I expect them to go home with some fish,” Panek said. “If you pay to go fishing, I’m going to grind it out, even if it takes a couple of extra hours.”
Good guides will be prepared to teach newbies or old hands some tricks and, if necessary, will do all the baiting and
casting for their customers.
There’s rarely a time during the year that isn’t good for fishing, Panek said.
“It’s always good,” Panek said. “I fish all year long, 365 days a year.”
Calling a guide before buying someone on your list new gear might also net you some tips on stocking stuffers, like the kind of baits and lures that would be good for catching local fish, Panek said.
– John Wayne Ferguson
What should you buy the boater in your life for the holidays?
Well, a boat might be a bit expensive. But there are other options.
Michael Newman, of Galveston, recommends some island-centric gifts, such as a lily pad float for weekends out on the water with family, he said. Lily pads are on-water portable floating islands.
And no island boater’s life is complete without an ice chest, such as ones made by Arctic or Yeti, Newman said.
For the more fishing-oriented boater in your life, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department now requires someone wear a tether string that will kill a motor if a boater gets too far away from their vessel, Newman said. But most people don’t like wearing the string, and there’s a new electronic device boaters wear, such as a Fitbit-style watch, instead.
If those ideas don’t pique your interest, there are other options.
“Especially since it’s right around Christmas time, what hit me is what you might be able to wear to get out on a boat,” said David Gaston, the adaptive sports coordinator at Sea Star Base Galveston.
As the weather grows colder with the approach of the holidays, boaters might need fall weather jackets and clothes to stay warm while out on the water, Gaston said. Socks and headgear might be useful, too.
Beyond that, boaters might find tools like a rigging knife or binoculars useful, Gaston said.
– Matt deGrood
With the season of giving just around the corner, there are quite a few items that might be on the wish list of the kayaker in your life.
“It’s one of the few things that no matter where we go with COVID, we can still go kayaking,” said Jenn Nolan, who owns a kayak rental and demo business in Hitchcock and a kayak retail store in Crosby. “It’s an individual sport, and you’re going to social distance because nobody wants anyone within 6 feet when they’re catching fish. We don’t want anyone within 600 feet.”
For most kayakers, there isn’t a whole lot of room on their vessels and the potential for something — including the kayaker themselves — going overboard always is a concern. So, any gift that floats will be a useful one for kayakers.
“If it’s floating, we know we’re not going to lose our stuff,” Nolan said. “As cool as I think I am, Mother Nature is bigger than me, and I may end up topside, one way or another.”
One essential item for any kayaker is a floating dry bag to store possessions — such as cell phones, wallets, keys, etc. — they don’t want lost or damaged in the water. The bags come in different colors, varieties and brands, and typically range in price from $14 to $24.
Most kayakers also enjoy fishing from their vessels, and a floating fishing net can be a great tool for not only catching fish on the water, but for carrying items while getting on or off the kayak. While some are more pricey, a solid net can be found for about $20.
A grab pad, which helps hold smaller items in place on the kayak; a fishing line cutting tool; or a stringer, which keeps caught fish alive and safe in the water; all can make for good stocking stuffers for a kayaking enthusiast and are fairly inexpensive.
For added comfort on the water, a kayak seat cushion is another gift option. Some prices range higher, but a good cushion can be found for as low as about $10. And, for added safety while on the water, a visibility light and flag is a solid gift idea, with those products ranging anywhere from about $30 to $100.
Another great gift is a kayak cart, which essentially performs as a mini-boat trailer for the kayak. The carts can cost anywhere from about $55 to $150.
Another slightly more expensive product, but also a highly useful one, is a push pole that serves dual duties for a kayaker. The push pole’s main function is to stick in the ground and serve as an anchor. But it also can be used to slowly and quietly maneuver the kayak while trying to sneak up on fish. Some of the high-end models are priced at as much as about $200, but others are as low as about $33.
– James LaCombe