Sports

Seaside, Oregon surfing on a windy summer day

Seaside, Oregon is my favorite surfing beach in the state. It is less than 90 miles from my home in Portland. It has a consistent break, usually better than most other beaches that are driving distance from Portland. Mostly the vibe at Seaside is relaxed, and the community of surfers who share the beach are welcoming to most levels. There is space for advanced surfers and novices, so long as the novices stay out of the lineup. Some locals may not want beginners here. You have been warned.

I mastered the craft of Oregon surfing at this beach, logging many winter hours in the pounding surf. Only recently have I felt I belong in the lineup.

Most of the surfing websites that describe Seaside Cove accurately note the hazards are rips, rocks, locals, and sharks. And the order of danger is probably in that order. In the winter, the waves can hit well over 10 to 15 feet. In the summer, because of the northwest exposure, sets can easily top five to seven feet.

These scenes capture a choppy, mushy day that I mostly associate with winter and shoulder seasons, but it was mid-August. There is often little break time between the sets, and if you do not ride the rip out to the lineup, you will be pounded pretty hard.

The footage, admittedly shaky, captures how rough the surf can be, with nonstop sets and overheads, even on a summer day. If you are a surfer and want to visit Oregon, put this beach on your list. Support the local economy while you are there. Share the aloha and the Oregon surfer stoke. You will find many good rides.

Just be sure to bring a 5/4/3 suit. The water has very little temperature variation between summer and winter.

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Living and loving the life aquatic

(Rudy Owens, in one of his favorite environments, doing one his favorite things–lap swimming)

I am a swimmer. I have swum my whole life, but it was not until I had some bad running injuries, when I became a serious endurance athlete, that I found my rhythm and place in the pool.

Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for people of all ages. It has virtually no harmful impact on any part of the body, except perhaps the shoulders. Otherwise it is low-impact. It boosts lung capacity and one’s capacities in every sport. It is also one of the finest ways to meditate and clean one’s mind.

As I become a more proficient swimmer, I love that my lap swimming can now be seen as surf training, helping me become a stronger surfer. Surfing requires conditioning that only swimming can provide. It is a perfect match for this stage in my life.

I love seeing people in their 80s swim. It gives me hope I have decades left to enjoy staying healthy and active.

Cleaning off the bad stuff with a final 2016 surf

Today, I surfed at a location called the Needles, located at Cannon Beach. This upscale coastal community is about 85 miles northwest of Portland. Most of the miles-long beach is un-surfable, offering no coves. Rock formations at the Needles offer some slightly more stable sets, but not by much.

Let’s be clear. It’s rough, Northwest chop. You have to get hammered by constant waves to get to the point where they break. Today, the forecast predicted calmer waves before 10 a.m., then wind. Except for the first 30 minutes after I arrived around 8 a.m., it was all chop. That did not stop me. I donned my 5/4/3 wetsuit in 28 F temperatures and headed out with a grin.

I had a lovely time. I actually caught some nice rides, riding the foam crests. I had upped my skills to a new plateau–I finally felt I had mastered a few basic moves to give me a decent ride with all of the waves I caught. Best of all, I entertained onlookers with my mediocre abilities. I don’t think they realized how warm I was in my seal suit. I hope they were amused and considered trying surfing themselves later.

I had wanted to surf here for more than 33 years, since the first time I came as a college student. I finally did it. It was a great way to end the year. All that was bad was rinsed off my skin and cleaned from my spirit. I again felt renewed and ready for the challenges that await in 2017. There will be many–and today I will not think of them.

Have a happy New Year and a peaceful and prosperous 2017, everyone.

GoPro surfing fetishism, with loving affection

(Click on each photo to open a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

I own a GoPro Hero3, and I love it. It was inevitable I had to buy the GoPro surfboard mount once I owned a surfboard. Last weekend I tried it out when I went to “shark attack” beach, otherwise know as Indian Beach, in Ecola State Park. I went with my surfing Sensei, Sean, who has slowly introduced me to this wonderful sport. Aside from likely cracking one or more ribs, it was a fabulous day (that injury really blew a hole in vacation I just cancelled).

The videos I took have that hilarious GoPro quality of chaos. The board is being tossed around as waves hit, I’m going under foam, the camera goes underwater and blacks out. Most of the time I filmed myself holding on the the board trying to avoid junk waves, because it was a lousy day. I did capture some fun short foam wave rides. I also laughed at how my face scrunched up as a I paddled to get the wave. So I have a lot of B-roll junk video that is very awful. I won’t share that. However, I was able to extract some fun images that only a GoPro can capture with a fisheye lens view, showing the beauty of the moment when waves and water engulf you. It is one reason why I love GoPros. They tell stories beautifully, and I love to tell stories with them.

I played with some settings in post-production and produced these photos. They have a painterly quality I like. This is so much better than another GoPro surf video.

I also was inspired by some hilarious mockumentary videos of GoPro surfing fetishism in southern California. I laughed a lot watching these, because I had captured all of these scenes, minus extreme surfing localism that permeates surf culture globally. This one shows localism gone awry to the Game of Thrones soundtrack (LOL) and this one how many surfers tell their stories to the world, when they really are not that great. Both are published by The Inertia. GoPros used right can also create lovely works of beauty, which also show just how wild dropping-in can be when surfing etiquette gets tossed, often leading to confrontations at the beach. It is all part of the sport, and you have to live with it and accept it.

 

Swimming, great for the mind and body

I am a swimmer. Because of a persistent shoulder injury, called scapular displacement, I am unable to swim as much as I used to. But I go at least once a week. It is one of the best activities for one’s body. It allows the mind to filter out one’s problems and focus. It promotes health and fitness. It loosens tight lower back muscles. As one former Olympics swimmer and gold medalist Janet Evans notes: “Swimming is the ultimate all-in-one fitness package, working most muscles in the body in a variety of ways with every stroke. When strokes are performed correctly, the muscles lengthen and increase in flexibility. The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength, which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life. The hip, back, and abdominal muscles are crucial to moving through the water effectively and efficiently. Swimming builds these core muscles better than any abs video or gadget advertised on television. Finally, a properly structured swim workout provides incredible improvements to the cardiovascular system. The nature of breathing when swimming-with breath being somewhat limited in volume and frequency-promotes greater lung capacity and a consistent intake of oxygen. Both aerobic and anaerobic gains can be made in the same workout.”

These are shots I took at an open water swim event at Lake Meridian, in Kent, Washington, in 2012. Some very fit, hyper-competitive athletes were in this group. Most mere mortals can benefit from going to a local pools once or more a week. If you have not taken up swimming, try it out. Go slow. Give it time. It took me about 25 times before I finally switched from hating doing laps to loving my trips to the pool. Like all good things, it takes time.

In the long shadow of Evel Knievel, daredevils still risk it all

Every modern motorcyle and extreme sports daredevil since the 1960s and  1970s stands in the long shadow of stunt rider Evel Knievel. The Butte, Montana, native and international showman built a legacy of thrilling audiences with death-defying leaps on his motorcyle over long distances. From the grisly televised crash at Caesar’s Palace in December 1967 to jumping 15 buses in Wembley Stadium in London in May 1975, Knievel conquered the public’s imagination. He had spectacular failures and reportedly broke more than 400 bones in his battered body over his long years as a showman extraordinaire and one-of-a-kind daredevil.

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

The Sports Illustrated cover shows Evel Knievel in his purest form, decked out in his all-American jump suit (great photo).

Knievel completely invented himself, his persona, and his brand of entertainment from the ground up, with his imagination knowing no boundaries. His first recorded jump, according to the new documentary on his life called Being Evel, was over two cougars and a box of rattle snakes in Moses Lake, Washington, and he crashed open the box of snakes who got away. He then built up his reputation the hard way, show after show, and also crash after crash. His greatest media stunt, and failure too, was attempting to jump in a specialized vehicle over the Snake River Canyon on Sept. 8, 1974, with him crashing yet again in the canyon floor. But he got back up and kept at it.

As a kid, I likely fell under the Kneivel spell, and saw him many times on TV, on lunch boxes, and on tabloid newspaper covers. He made more than half a dozen appearances on ABC’s Wide World of Sports in the 1970s, when I was growing up. He personified a type of fearless recklessness that excites nearly every young boy, and inspires a few to try such feats later in life. The current climate of Red Bull fueled stunts, jumping from outer space to leaping from cliff faces in wing suits, owes it all to him. Knievel proved you can become a legend if you are willing to put it all on the line and entertain the masses while doing it. Knievel died in 2007 at 69 years of age, a badass to the end, being totally himself.

The photos above were taken at the Omak Stampede in August 2013. I took these shots during practice for a great half-time event at the stampede later that night. Three daredevils, whose names I now cannot find, put on a show with multiple leaps on their dirt bikes and four wheeler. The best rider did a back flip during the show on his bike and totally nailed the landing. They had all of their gear in trailers they hauled by trucks, a bit like Knievel. All three of these guys were accompanied by a trio of totally beautiful women, who stood proudly by their sides. In that way, nothing has changed since Knievel’s day. The daredevil is made of different stuff, and it is the stuff that still appeals to women who like dangerous men. As Knievel may or may not have said, “bones heal, pain is temporary, [and] chicks dig scars… .”

Testimony to my love of running

I can never seem to get rid of my running shoes after their intended purpose ends, usually around month six. But they still work fine for walking and other sports. And so my stack of shoes is alive and well by my door. I actually just dropped off four pairs at Goodwill too. (Click on the photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Missing those ubiquitous ski trails of Anchorage

 

Skate skiing used to be a part of my life in a major way in Anchorage, Alaska, for six winters. Now I have to drive 60 miles to some decent trails, which are not as well-groomed as what I had at my fingertips at one of the nation’s best cross-country ski areas–urban Anchorage. The Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage is the major reason why Nordic skiing in Anchorage was always way, way, way above average. A lousy winter this year has put a damper on the ski community (it was 38 degrees F on Friday, Jan. 16). I do miss those trails living so far away. I took all of these photos with a consumer-grade point and shoot Canon–a tough little workhorse that was easy to slip in my pocket and snap quick pics during a ski outing. And there were many ski outings.

(Click on each photograph to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Extreme Nordic at Mt Hood’s Teacup ski trails

On the last day of 2014, Mt. Hood finally had great ski conditions. I headed up to Teacup Nordic, the closest groomed nordic trails near Portland and got my last good runs of the old year. To anyone out there who thinks Nordic is for geezers or losers, you should give skate skiing a try. It will kick your ass into shape on the flats and uphills and will have you grinning like a bear in a salmon stream when you rip down a groomed trail. Happy trails, skiers.

Skate skiing at Teacup on Mt. Hood

Teacup Lake is a groomed cross country ski area on Mt. Hood. Trails are groomed and maintained by Teacup Lake chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club. The season opened early last weekend, but the snow was the typical Cascades wet, heavy glop. This week, warm weather will delay the re-opening. Here is a video I put together of the Hood River Road Trail, one of the few groomed trails open when I skied (Nov. 23). One reason I love skate skiing is because I get to combine screaming downhill fun and hard work required to skate ski and particularly climb hills, or the lung-busters. Hope you get out of town whereever you are and enjoy winter.