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Rising sea levels affecting Corpus Christi surfers, experts say climate change is to blame

Non-profit Surfrider Foundation listed Corpus Christi as becoming "un-surfable."

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — As Texas beaches continue to fill with more people every year, experts say there is less room than ever for them as tides rise.

The Surfrider Foundation puts Corpus Christi on it's list of top-10 popular surfing destinations that is, "slowing becoming un-surfable due to the effects of climate change."

Co-chair of the Texas Coastal Chapter Neil McQueen and Senior Environmental Director Zach Plopper are both experienced surfers working for the Surfrider Foundation, which is a non-profit trying to preserve the ocean protection and recreational activities.

“Surfers are really in tune with the tides and tides make a big difference in the way that waves behave," Plopper said. "And unfortunately we’re going to see, kind of, increasing high tides across the Gulf, including Corpus Christi.”

According to the Surfrider Foundation, climate scientist predict the Gulf of Mexico will increase by up to 18 inches by 2050. They said the rising tides directly affect surfers--and everyone else in the Coastal Bend will start to notice, too.

“We’re seeing up to four and half to five feet of erosion on beaches in part of the Coastal Bend and that’s pretty significant," McQueen said. "And that happens usually when there are big storms.”

Experts said the rising sea levels mean it will be more difficult to access some of the nation’s most popular surfing destinations, like Corpus Christi. Texas residents also say the surfing experience itself is changing.

“It definitely makes it a lot harder," said Amberly Amos, who was visiting from San Antonio. "Because it’ll take us, instead of, like, taking us back to shore, it’ll take us back out. The under toe's worse.”

Surfers like Amos and Caroline Kennell, who visit Padre Island a few times every summer to surf, said they’ve noticed more trash around the water, too. They said that needs to change to preserve the area. 

“I encourage everyone to pick up trash when you see it, throw it away," Kennell said.

The Surfrider Foundation warns that if people don’t start to reduce carbon emissions and limit things like hard structures on the coast by looking for more sustainable alternatives, erosion issues could spread beyond the Gulf Coast and into the Corpus Christi Bay.

“People are going to keep coming here that want to recreate and want to go surfing, there’s no question," McQueen said. "And I think it’s going to be a wakeup call for some people that things are going to be changing and they hadn’t really thought of the impacts.”

McQueen and Plopper suggest some solutions to the rising sea levels. They said limiting carbon emissions, restoring sand dunes and using oyster beds and mangroves as natural barriers instead of sea walls will help keep the Coastal Bend the popular surfing destination it is.

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