Finding a Love for the Waves

You can’t live in the Pacific Northwest having never surfed. Okay, so it’s not really like that. But most days, you’ll find the beaches here packed with surfers either on their pre-work wave riding routine, taking a quick “lunch break,” or catching the evening swell before the sun sets. If there’s any truth to the statement above, I guess I can leave here with the pride of an Oregonian.

Waves breaking at sunset. Photo: Justin Dalaba.

Since a young age, I’ve always loved watching waves and felt drawn to them, but until now I never really had a means of riding one. Having a surfboard might have helped, but there’s a difference between learning to surf and putting yourself at the mercy of a big breaker with no clue how to either escape or ride the wave. Fortunately, living within walking distance of popular surf spots this summer made my goal of learning to surf much more attainable.

Jess Vaccare (left), our instructor (middle) and myself (right) heading out to surf. Photo: Skyler Elmstrom.

There are two things you learn right away about surfing the central coast of Oregon. First, the water is cold. And that pretty much never changes. It helps coming from a background of coldwater diving, but you’re still never really prepared for when that first wave breaks over your head, sending brisk seawater down your wetsuit. Second, expect the conditions to change pretty quickly at any point in the day. It rains basically half the year here and the accompanying wind and fog can be just as enduring. I learned how brutal paddling into the wind and waves can be during my second surf session when a sunny day was quickly consumed by wind and fog. So if numb hands and salty eyes don’t bother you, this is the place to surf.

Post-surf stoke. Photo: Skyler Elmstrom.

The hardest part about surfing (from a beginner’s perspective) is getting yourself in the water and learning to read the ocean. You can really wear yourself out quickly by paddling into waves and trying to get up on every one that looks worthy of riding, but if you’re patient and wait for the right one, there’s nothing that compares to the feeling of being on your feet with gravity in your favor. For me, that lucky wave came on my second attempt. Something just felt right as I rotated around, took a few long strokes and felt the surge of water tip my board down. Once I got into my stance, it was almost effortless as I let the wave do most of the work.

Evening swell on the Oregon coast.

I was stoked. All of my irrational fears about failing and tumbling down the wave had vanished. From now on, I’ll probably always associate surfing with my first experience here on the Oregon coast. I couldn’t think of a better setting with better people to surf with. But I think half the fun of surfing is finding new places and new buddies who can share their experiences with you. I don’t think this was just another bucket list item for me; rather this will be another outlet for me to explore what’s out there before it’s gone. Our ocean is such a great resource in many ways and in order to conserve it, we first have to appreciate it and find a love for it.

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2 thoughts on “Finding a Love for the Waves

  1. Great job getting out into the surf! Now you understand all those beach-goers a little bit better…

  2. So exciting that you were able to check this off your bucket list! Are there any good places to surf back in New York?

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