Surfing

Surf’s up at Pacific City

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Pacific City is a beautiful coastal community about 25 miles south of Tilamook. It’s renown for the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area. Among surfers, it has a very good reputation as an Oregon surfing beach. In front of Haystack Rock, just south of the cape, you’ll find lovely breaks that go left and right. Today’s surfing crowd included paddleboard surfers, short board riders, and long boarders. Everyone was catching nice waves.

After a difficult winter of getting pounded week after week at Seaside, mostly, I finally learned what a calm day and clean breaks can be like. I was able to ride more wave faces than I ever have. I even was able to lean back and ride a few waves through the foam, feeling the stoke and the balance of that classic pose of just going for a ride. Sunny, warm weather made things almost perfect.

My shots includes a few remaining surfers in front of Haystack Rock in the late morning and the early morning paddle surfers before I put in.

I also enjoyed meeting one of the many local fisherman. The beach is a popular put in and take out spot for charter fishing. My fishing friend had caught his quota of ling cod and rock fish.

When you’re done surfing, you can always go for a walk up to the top of Kape Kiwanda or grab a beer at the Pelican Brewing Co. and soak up the scenery.

 

It takes years to learn a beach

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As a novice surfer, I still realize how little I know about the power of the ocean, particularly rip tides. Today, they felt like monsters pulling out from shore as the tide shifted and quickly changed between ebb and flow, and the water was sucked out of the main surfing cove at Seaside with alarming speed and force. I am breaking many rules still. I am not riding the rip out to the line up location. My dives are lousy, which is why I am not surfing near others. Also, I am choosing the wrong spots, because I do not trust my “fun board” in the rip.

Today I decided I will upgrade to larger board and start venturing out the best point at this beach, where most of the surfers sit, looking longingly to the west, waiting for their wave to roll in from the ocean and to the shore. Today’s morning crew understood the tide better than me and put in as I was leaving. My consolation prize, besides getting a few good rides, was seeing the morning light as it danced through the dark clouds and turned the ocean a translucent green. It was magical to be the only soul out there for a while.

Oregon surf style: single fins and VW Squareback

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I recently returned from a four-day surf trip to the central Oregon coast. The safari included visits to Florence South Jetty, Newport South Jetty, Agate Beach, and Otter Rock. I had the best rides at Florence South Jetty, but I think Newport South Jetty had the nicest reef bottom. I will come back.

Rudy Owens at Agate Beach

The real “scene” was at Agate Beach, a well-known break next to Yaquina Head on the north side of the port city of Newport. That is where I captured this iconic Squareback, loaded with two single fins. What a classic look.

A lot of surfers of all skill levels gathered for some nice waves on a Saturday morning, before the winds picked up and led to some rough pounding near-shore breaks that pummeled me for two hours.

I  enjoyed every minute and will return to Newport.

Shredding it at Seaside

There was a break in bad weather at Seaside, Oregon, this past weekend and the A-Team showed up on long and short boards. I saw a lot of beautiful rides after I got out of the water. The outing inspired me to get some old surf rock classics, like the Ventures. Enjoy their beats and see what’s splashing on the surfcam at Seaside.

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Oswald West-Short Sands, a beautiful Oregon beach

Oswald West State Park/Short Sands beach is a beautiful coastal spot about 90 miles from Portland. The snug little cove is surrounded by giant, original old growth and coastal mountains. Three streams find their way to the ocean here. The place is exceptionally popular in the summer with day trippers and with surfers year-round.

I have made more than half a dozen trips here, lately to go surfing. Despite its reputation as a beginner surfer beach, I have rarely seen a clean wave here. I know they exist, because I have seen YouTube videos on those rare, bluebird sky summer surf days. I have only known it on rainy days, mostly, when the surf churns like a bad brew. That happened to me on Feb. 24.

A winter’s surfing trip to the coast is an adventure before you even get there. I drove through a winter storm, over the coastal range. White knuckles were de rigueur. I saw multiple trucks stuck on the higher passes. Before I reached the beach, I had two choices once I hit Highway 101: head to Seaside Cove, which has some beautiful swells and clean lines or try Short Sands, with the hope I might surf in an area covered by snow. The thought of that sent me south to Short Sands.

Well, the waves were mostly disappointing. I got my first head ding from the board and torqued my bad knee. Still, I found some lovely waves in the strong rip and currents that churn here when there is high tide. A resident bald eagle circled above and came to feast on some dead sea critter that had washed ashore. I can’t complain about seeing a bald eagle eating sea carrion. Just as I was leaving, the waves started to calm and a new set of surfers arrived. I wished them well and walked amid the druids of giant Sitka spruces, listening to the clear stream head to the ocean.

 

 

Otter Rock surfing on a winter’s day in Oregon

I finally made it out to Otter Rock, one of Oregon’s premier surfing beaches. The spot is located next to a state park, where you can also find Devil’s Punch Bowl. It’s a great place to appreciate the beauty and ruggedness of the Oregon coast.

Well, surfing here in the Northwest is never perfect, and Otter Rock like all beaches must contend with the swells and winds of winter. When I headed out on Feb. 17, 2017, the forecast called for not-so-windy weather and swells spaced apart at least 15 seconds. It proved far windier and rougher than I had bargained for.

Was that going to stop me? Heck no. I put on the suit and got out. I did get my requisite rides, plus many shorter rides closer to shore. Not a perfect day, but when you spend four hours in the waves, do you have anything to complain about? Absolutely not. A day later I still feel the vibe.

I really don’t care if my Seaside surf pictures are mediocre

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I have not had time lately to go out and take new images. So I simply shoot a few memory shots whenever I head to Seaside, to  work on my surfing skills. Today was tough. The waves came in about every 9 to 12 seconds, and they were at least 5 to 6 feet high. I should have waited til midday, when the sets would space out to every 20 seconds and the wind had calmed down. So that is my lesson learned. I have learned something every time I surf, which is why I like this sport. Also, don’t go out in the chop.

Unlike most of the region, I was able to see the moon over the ocean, which was lovely. I also played hide and seek with a juvenile harbor seal. It watched me as it bobbed in and out of the waves and as I struggled to find a spot to find a wave. I envied its flippers.

In the end, I caught my requisite waves, including a divine pulse of energy that brought me from a far break to the shore. Love that. I met some nice surfers, as always. One guy grew up in Santa Cruz, had lived in Maui, and now calls Portland home. For him, this has to be rough going from perfection to imperfection. For me, it’s what I know, and what I love.

As for taking fine art pictures and telling compelling photojournalistic stories? I will eventually get back into that, as soon as I get my forthcoming book published. There is only so much time in the week, and I do have a thing called a job that takes up time.

Oregon surfing seen through a point and shoot lens

I started surfing in Oregon in August 2016. I am now thoroughly hooked. I watch surf reports regularly for my favorite spots like Seaside Cove and check out the cove’s enticing but tiny surfcam. It’s a great antidote to stress and life’s worries.

suited-up-an-ready-2

Heading out on a cold winter day at Seaside–loving every minute of it!

So, just the thought of going surfing makes me calm. Surfing itself is transcendent. On the Oregon coast, it is usually rough, with lots of choppy sets. You seldom get those clean lines like you see in Southern California. Here we have the fickle north Pacific to deal with. But I do not let these downsides overcome the upsides.

When I head to the coast I never take a good camera with me. Mainly, when I go to the beach, I go to surf. In my to-go bag, I usually toss in my old Canon point and shoot, set it on zoom, and hope I get something nice. For now, my surf photography is more about telling the story of a place. The pictures do not have to be great to convey the feeling of being in a 5/4/3 wetsuit, bobbing in the cold water, plowing through a gnarly break, and hoping you get a great ride. When you do, nothing else really matters. It is a feeling of bliss. I hope you feel that in these pictures. I do.

Lastly, I have met mainly great people out on the coast. Most everyone is in a good mood. I especially love seeing the older masters on their longboards, kicking my sorry butt and looking so fine. Surf on, Oregonians.

Seaside Cove on a winter’s day

Seaside is a small coastal community about 85 miles northwest of Portland. It is best known as one of the premier surf spots in the Northwest, thanks to the break that hugs the point that juts out into the Pacific just south of the city. The surf website Surfline boasts it offers the “best left-hand pointbreak in North America.” This of course inspires visitors and also localism that has become of the stuff of local legend. A TV news reporter once endured abuse from local bad boys, countered by an effort to counter the incident by locals. There are also stories of slashed tires of those who park near Seaside Point.

I have avoided the beach for months because of the fierce localism reputation the community has earned, but could not resist coming on a day with small waves and clean sets I could see on the local beachcam. I put in at Seaside Cove, which lies just north of Seaside Point. When I arrived at around 10 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2017, clean sets with waves from 1.5 feet to 3 feet were rolling in nicely. Longboarders were popping left and right. The sun was out, and the winds were calm. It was, however, cold. My car thermometer showed 25 F when I stopped. The frigid air did not stop the 30 or more surfers I saw putting in during the next four hours.

My experience proved memorable. It was the first day I caught waves the full distance from the break to the shore. I had overcome a few plateaus, but I still had to work on choosing my waves as far out as I could be. I was hampered by having a “fun board,” which is shorter than a longboard. Longboarders were able to catch the waves farther out, and I could not navigate around them to their spot. Still, it was a perfect day. The scene was mellow and friendly. Whatever reputation surfers have here did not mesh with the vibe I found. I think the perfect winter surfing day put everyone in a great mood. There were more than enough breaks and enough space for everyone, from experienced gray beards to rookies.

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.