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Blue Tomato

Stormrider Guide to surfing North Oregon

Washington and Oregon, USA, NORTH AMERICA


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Summary

+ Powerful, big swells - Swells often too big
+ Accessibility - Stormy climate
+ Beautiful scenery - Crowded
+ Spot variety - Localism and sharks

North Oregon gets great surf when the conditions align, which unfortunately is rare. It’s a windy place, but fortunately, the area has some protection either side of the major protruding points, capes and headlands. Some spots are crowded and well-known, while others are empty and rarely spoken of. Wetsuit technology has increased the surfing population, much of which drives over from Portland and the rest of the valley.

When to Go

The primary source of swell comes from the NW lows in the Gulf of Alaska during winter (Nov-Mar), ranging in size from 3-50ft. Summer is generally all local windswell; southern-hemisphere groundswells do not hit here. Check the Columbia River Bar Buoy 46029 on the Internet or weather radio for swell size, interval, and wind. Dominant winds are NW year-round, blowing cold and hard during spring (Mar-June) and bringing the fog during summer (June-Sept). Tides are a major factor at all spots; local tide tables are available at any surf shop or sporting goods store. Tread lightly.

Surf Spots

Fort Stevens State Park south to Seaside is a long, nondescript beachbreak, surfable only when small and clean. Seaside Cove is where the beach meets the rocks at the south end of the city. At high tide with SE wind, a right breaks into a rip that makes the paddle easy, so expect semi-hollow, sectiony walls with lots of longboarders on them. There are lefts, too, usually faster and more sectiony. Seaside Point consists of First and Second Point, which serve long, hollow, sling-shot lefts up to triple overhead-plus. First Point is the gem, while Second Point is shorter, heavier, and more exposed to wind. Gnarly locals revere both spots and maintain a reality of violent localism towards non-local surfers, even if you’re low-key. Our advice: don’t go there. Indian Beach can be worth checking; the mouth of Ecola Creek occasionally has a good bar sheltered from NW winds. The beach fronting pretty little Cannon Beach is basically all sandbars, only surfable when small and clean. Just south of Cape Falcon, hugely popular Short Sands Beach might as well be Portland-by-the-Sea due to its valley crowds after its wind protection, soft waves, and sandy bottom. The beautiful horseshoe cove is safe from all but W winds and entails a 20-minute walk through old-growth spruce forest. Manzanita and Rockaway Beach are miles of typical, flat-bottomed beachbreak, backed by grassy dunes and wide open to wind and swell. The area is good during the summer with small, clean swells and east wind. Barview Jetty on the south entrance of Tillamook Bay offers organised jetty surf with fun, bowling waves. Before geological upheaval wrecked the reef (and the spot—R.I.P.), Cape Lookout, aka Boy Scout Camp, the longest cape on the West Coast, required W swells to get the best out of the once-quality righthand reef, sheltered from NW wind. Sometimes a good left breaks into the channel between the beachbreak and the point. Blows out on S wind. The north side has nice beachbreak too, which is naturally sheltered from winter S winds. Occasionally, good beachbreak rights unfurl at popular, heavily Instagrammed Cape Kiwanda (the Malibu of Oregon) and run south to Neskowin, all best when small and glassy.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell W -NW W -NW W -SW W -SW W -NW W -NW
swell size (ft) 6 4-5 4 4-5 5 6
consistency (%) 80 75 60 60 70 80
dominant wind NW -N NW -N NW -N NW -N NW -N NW -N
average force F4 F4 F5 F4-F5 F4 F4
consistency (%) 44 57 69 66 62 47
water temp (C) 12 13 13 14 14 13
wetsuit 4/3 4/3 4/3 4/3 4/3 4/3

Travel Information

Weather
Oregon is usually stormy from October to May; foggy in the summer; windy in the spring, and variable in the autumn. Autumn is the best (and sharkiest) time for this area when the summer fog leaves, the wind is lighter, and clean NW swells begin. Winter is far too big of a gamble for the visiting surfer – more often than not, it’ll be raining with 35-knot SE winds, giant seas and few (if any) options for surfing. The water is always cold, requiring a 5/4mm hooded steamer, thick booties and gloves.

Lodging and Food
Camping is the ideal cheap option during the drier months. There is ample accommodation in all price ranges in Seaside, Cannon Beach, Tillamook and Pacific City. Drink good beer at Pelican Pub on the beach at Cape Kiwanda. Stuff your face at the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Nature and Culture
North Oregon is rugged and beautiful, but most of the coast is not viewable directly from Highway 101. There are many places for hiking and general nature enjoyment. Not much nightlife to speak of unless you’re a local.