Surfing on the Beautiful Oregon Coast
The Oregon coast is a vast cemetery of mariners, ships and sailors who succumbed to the longest unimpeded 362-mile-long stretch of shore – no reefs or islands – of open coastline on earth. But amongst the dangers and the rugged beauty, you’ll find some of the best surfing around.
As a surfer, the Pacific Northwest might not be tops on your list of surfing spots. If you’re new to surfing and have always wanted to learn, 50º water and wetsuits from head to to might not sound enticing. However, from the northwest corner of Oregon all the way to Bandon, you’ll find amazing surf breaks set against the incredible surroundings of Oregon’s coastline. If you’re a veteran surfer or someone who would simply love to learn, there’s a wave on the Oregon coast waiting for you.
Surfing on the Oregon coast definitely is a “know before you go” situation. Researching as much as you can is well worth the time. Dotted up and down the coast are many surf shops offering advice, lessons and equipment. The first concern with your Oregon surfing experience is the ocean water temperature. It sometime dips to mid-40º but averages in the 50º area. You’ll want to also take note of the strong winds, huge wave and strong currents, not to mention craggy rocks. And as with all surf experiences, you’ll want to take not of the locals. Tourists visiting their favorite surf beaches should follow the rules of the road and treat the situation with respect.
Oregon Coast Surfing Seasons
Amazingly, summer is not considered the high season for surfing in Oregon. In many of the popular surfing areas, you’ll find lower summer water temperatures than winter, as upwelling lowers the temperatures to the mid to upper 40s. Windy offshore conditions make keep summer visitors to the coast at just the right temperatures, but those conditions often resulting in waves that that rival Alaska during the crabbing season.
The high surfing season on the Oregon coast. You’ll often find what locals call the “second summer,” with little or no wind, smooth groundswells, sunny days and daily temperatures in the low 80s. Or you may get a taste of the more stormy winter weather. Regardless, fall offers the best possibility of scoring perfect waves and summer like days that surfers love.
Winter definitely comes in like a lion on the Oregon coast, throwing fierce storm routes directly into the area. Frankly, if you’ve visiting the Oregon coast specifically to surf, give winter a pass. Not only do the storms come one right after another, the surf itself is typically to huge and chaotic to ride.
Winter’s rains lesson as spring approaches on the coast, offering much welcomed sunshine to warm the beaches. With the advent of spring, swells continually head south from the northwest, slowly becoming a more surf friendly size and texture about mid-April. You’ll still find the winter winds during spring surfing. The lagoons and bays are more popular in the spring for this reason.
Popular Oregon Coast Surfing Areas
Indian Beach –
You’ll find Indian Beach in one of the most beautiful and popular areas on the Oregon coast, Ecola State Park, a truly gorgeous area with the added benefit of terrific sunsets. This beach is considered for for the intermediate surfer rather than the beginner, but here you’ll also find a great many different types of waves the majority of the time. Be prepared to pay for parking, but the Park itself is well worth the cost.
Where to stay: For camping, try Wright’s For Camping or Sea Ranch Resort. For a more plush surrounding after a day on the water, try the Hallmark Inn.
Oswald West State Park –
Know to the locals as Short Sands Beach, this surf cove is terrific for both the beginner and for the veteran surfer. Located less than two hours west of Portland, Oswald West has a small beach break for beginners and terrific waves for the more experienced. You’ll find the very best surfing when the southwest flow drives headlong into the north wall. The resulting waves are sometimes the most exciting to tackle along the whole Oregon coast. Set at the foot of Neahkahnie Mountain near the town of Manzanita, the incredibly beautiful Oswald West State Park can become crowed during the summer months, and you’ll find a short but scenic hike from the parking area to Short Sands Beach.
Where to stay: You’ll find camping and yurt rental at the local Nehalem Bay State Park. For the ultimate surf experience, stay at the oceanfront Manzanita vacation rentals The Houses On Manzanita Beach. Located just steps away from the beach, you’ll even find surfing right outside your door. The ultimate “surf in” experience.
Pacific City –
Surfing and beer go hand in hand at the beautiful Pacific City beach. The local surf hangout pub also offers a warm shower to surfers for a quick wash after a day on the water. That said, the strong breaks on the Pacific City beach while hypnotizing to watch can make it a challenge for beginners. You’ll find a stretch of safe beach breaks perfect for beginners across from the parking area. Check at the local surf shops for the inside scoop if you’re determined to try. It’s the ultimate Oregon coast surfer environment.
Where to stay: For the prototypical surfer motel, try Pacific City Inn. Or go for an upper end experience at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda.
Otter Rock –
Otter Rock is very different from the rest of the rugged Oregon coast. The large headland protects the beach from windy conditions and huge swells. Located half way between the popular coastal towns of Depoe Bay and Newport, Otter Rock holds the designation as one of Outdoor Magazine’s Best North American Beginner Surf Spots. And rightly so. The break serves surfers some of the most regular 2′ to 4′ waves on the Oregon coast.
Where to stay: You’ll find camping at the local Beverly Beach State Park, or try the Inn at Otter Crest for a resort experience.
Whether you’re an experienced surfer, or an surfing enthusiast who has always wanted to learn, you’ll find surprisingly wonderful waves without crowds amongst the beautiful Pacific Northwest backdrop on the Oregon coast. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss.