Surfari to NorCal and Oregon
by Dave Duncan
After a little planning my family and I set out on a seven-week surf trip to explore and surf along the Northern California and Oregon coastline. We strapped on the longboards, filled our camp trailer with wetsuits, clothing, food and were on the road August 18th departing from Reno, NV.
Before we actually made it into Oregon, we stopped for two weeks in the Ft. Bragg/Mendocino area surfing and playing on the beaches there. The weather was pleasantly warm and the swell was shoulder to head high producing great surfing everywhere. We have friends who live and surf there. Walt, Jackie, Wyatt, Pam, Kevin and Kim welcomed us at our camp and there was never a dull moment during that two weeks. Besides surfing, there was kayaking, biking and an outdoor party too. I was amazed by the clarity of the water. You could see the bottom when riding along on a wave. Sitting on your board in the water and taking in the natural beauty of the towering redwoods and rocky shear cliffs is beyond description.
Bidding our Mendocino friends farewell for the time being. We would meet up again in Crescent City. We headed inland for a “speed run” up Interstate 5 to get to Oregon’s coastal northwest corner. Our destination was Fort Stevens State Park and the mouth of the mighty Columbia River. I was glad that I brought both 4/3 and 5/3 wetsuits. We were having warm sunny skies but the water temperature had dropped and the hooded 5/3 was my armor for the month in Oregon. For a week we surfed and explored the area south to Cannon Beach. Oregon’s coast line is only about 370 miles long. So, with that in mind we made five different camps driving roughly 60 miles between camps and at each campsite we spent five days.
Moving South on Hwy.101 our next stop was the Devil’s Lake State Park in Lincoln City. On this stretch of coastline there was great surf to be had. If you saw surf or a break that you liked, you simply pulled over suited up and hit the water. No crowds and no waiting, it’s all yours. I surfed that part of the trip at Pacific City near Cape Kiwanda and in Lincoln City. From our campground at Devil’s Lake, I simply donned my wetsuit and took the 10 minute walk with my board to the beach and surfed. It was a little unnerving to be surfing all alone in great hotdogging waves with no one else. I kept saying to my self, where is everybody? This was the rule most of the time all the way to Cape Arago at Coos Bay.
While camping just south of Newport, there is a popular surf spot at South Beach State Park. I surfed there a couple days and when I say popular I mean, there where only a couple of locals out in the water. The Annual Surfrider Beach Clean up was held while we were there. We jumped at the opportunity to participate and down the beach we went. Because the beaches in Oregon are so clean, searching for debris or whatever to fill our bag with was a very tall order. After several hours of walking and finding very little, we gave up and I hit the shoulder high surf with a couple locals at the South Jetty.
After Newport, we headed south for a week in Charleston at Bastendorff County Park. This was a great park to camp at because it looks over a great surf spot at the South Jetty of the Coos River. It was here that the weather started changing. One day I was surfing shoulder high peelers and the next day it was double overhead, closing out and the wind was blowing at gale force from the north. I was told by some local longboarders this is when the south facing point breaks start working, yet the swell was too small still. The wind did not keep us from exploring the Cape Arago area. While exploring the cliff areas above the water, we were greeted by a small pod of gray whales not more than 500 yards offshore. This was a bonus sighting that we did not expect. I returned to the same spot the next day and the whales were still there cruising around.
So far we were fortunate to have had only two nights of light rain during our trip. The surfing was great all the way down the coast. Our trip timing could not have been better. Oregon and the people who live along the coast seem to run on a slower clock. There is never a big huge rush for much of anything. Fast drivers are rare too, this pace suits me just fine.
The “Grand Finale” of our trip was to attend the 12th Annual Noll Classic Longboard Contest held in Crescent City. This is my fourth consecutive year returning as a contestant. Surfers and their families from Washington State to SoCal return each year for this two day “tribal gathering” family event. This year, there were nearly 240 contestants entered with ages varying from 5 to 65. After the awards ceremony on Sunday afternoon, we all said our good-byes. Many of us will not see each other again until next year’s contest. The aloha spirit, friendship and stoke that was prevalent throughout that weekend will keep our hearts warm until we meet again.
After seven weeks of surfing, exploring, biking, hiking and meeting new friends it’s time to start on an easterly course and head inland for home in Reno. The mornings are chilly and the fall colors abound. I know my wife and son had as much fun as I did. We were all healthy, together and on the beach. What more could one ask for?