Oregon Surfing

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.

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

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

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

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.

GoPro surfing fetishism, with loving affection

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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.

 

Surfing in the rain at Oswald beach, Oregon

Oswald West State Park is a popular surfing beach in northwest Oregon, south of the more upscale and popular Canon Beach. You will need a wet suit, as we are talking water that is always less than 60 F. The day I visited (Nov. 9, 2014), I saw a lot of novices and not a single clean ride. The ocean was choppy and the surf erratic. No one seemed to mind. Everyone was enjoying the vibe. You can see a bigger version of the video here.