Oregon enjoys only a fraction of the attention that its southern neighbor receives—and this is just fine with those who frequent the area. Plagued by frigid water and problematic winds, Oregon is all about having the commitment to wait out the down days in order to score those rare moments of magic. While you may spend more time waiting than surfing, when those moments finally come, you may just find that there is no surf zone on earth with a more ruggedly beautiful backdrop than the Pacific Northwest.
The Surf: More than anything, Oregon is known for its left points—although it also has a wide selection of beach breaks, slab reefs, and big waves spots on offer. Due to the extreme weather and dangerously low water temperatures, this should be considered an intermediate to advanced surf zone.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Seaside Point: One of the most localized spots on the West Coast—but for a reason. Seaside Point is an excellent left hand point with a vicious reputation, so come alone and try to score a few scraps.
- Cannon Beach: Miles of beach break peaks set in a popular tourist town.
- Pacific City: Another popular tourist haven with a quirky beach break with a unique natural backdrop.
- Nelscott Reef: Oregon’s answer to Waimea Bay or Maverics, Nelscott is a legitimate big wave right hander that was once thought to be tow-only, but is now paddled by a few hardy chargers.
- The Yeti: Possibly heavier than Nelscott Reef—although not nearly as big—this mutant left slab was uncovered by Greg Long, and is said to be somewhere north of California and south of Washington.
The Water: Clean, cold, and full of sea life. Water temps range from 50–60 F (10–15 C), so bring thick rubber.
The Season: While winter enjoys non-stop giant surf, it also suffers from non-stop stormy conditions. Fall (September through November), on the other hand, can see sunny, glassy conditions coinciding with long interval groundswell—a winning combination no matter the temperature of the water.
The Vibe: Oregon is a heavy surfing experience, and not only because of the cold, the storms, and the big waves. Seaside is notorious for localism, as are a number of other spots. Aside from these surf enclaves, however, you are more likely to surf alone than you are to see someone else in the water.
Things To Do: Portland is a great city with a cool outdoor scene, and now rivals Boulder, CO as the country’s most popular residence for elite athletes. There is great skiing in Oregon as well, with popular mountains such as Mt. Bachelor in Bend.
Where To Stay: Most coastal towns have hotels and B&Bs, but this is a popular tourist area, so expect to pay top dollar. If you are a rugged outdoorsman or woman, you could always camp—but expect rain, wind, and cold.
What To Bring: A shortboard, a longboard, and a big wave gun. Thick rubber—4/3 with hood, booties, and gloves in summer, and a 6/5/4 in the dead of winter. Cold weather gear for on land as well. A sturdy van, as road tripping is a great way to see Oregon, and will save you money that would otherwise be spent on a hotel.
Getting There: While Portland International is the main airport—and only a 1.5-hour drive from the coast—many visiting surfers road trip up from California. US visa rules apply. Airport code: PDX.