While traveling in Baja not too long ago, we met a San Diego surfer that was describing a remote spot somewhere in the wilds of Mexico. He ended his story by saying that the only other guys that were there were these hardcore body boarders that were, “totally full on Oregon and shit. You know, big beards, flannel shirts, Carhartts.”
I pictured some classic Pacific Northwest timber loggers pulling up in their rusty pickup trucks, carrying chainsaws under one arm, boards under the other. Being from Oregon, I was so flattered, I couldn’t even say anything. “Full on Oregon and shit” is a serious compliment and one not taken lightly.
Oregon is cold, dark, green, wild and epic. There are no private beaches, no full parking lots and no parking fees. Not a single beach has the proverbial list of all the things you can’t do – like drink beer from a buried keg, run your dog, smoke a cigarette (hand rolled, of course), play loud music, or sleep overnight on the sand. Oregon beaches are an extension our Pacific Northwest culture – we pride ourselves on undeveloped open space. We have 363 miles of public coastline and a handful of decent surf spots, from chilled out long board waves to thumping barrels. Points, beach breaks, jetties, river mouths, rock reefs, we’ve got it.
At most spots, there are rarely more than ten people in the water. With quiet nods or friendly banter in the line-up, we are cordial, mellow, and respectful of our fellow neoprene clad watermen. We have the friendliness of the Midwest, but I suspect we drink a lot more designer coffee and craft micro-brews.
Make no assumption that it is a complete cold water paradise. It’s not. It’s more like an endless quest to conquer the less than ideal surfing conditions. We rack the boards on the car in the garage; only because it’s snowing outside and we have to drive through a blizzard to get to the coast. We wait for weeks on end for the swell to drop enough to be surfable, and there is always a high probability of getting completely skunked. We once drove 225 miles in one day looking for surf.
Sunshine is a dubious prospect. Coastal rainfall averages at 70 inches a year, seven times the amount of rain in San Diego. On a “warm day”, the water is 56 degrees and we are very rarely without a hood and gloves, those dreaded gloves. The ocean is teeming with life; the kind most of us don’t want to see, like big whiteys. They are out there in the murky water. I just know it.
Riding waves in Oregon is an adventure and not for everyone. But for us bearded, flannel wearing, coffee drinking, chainsaw toting sadists, it is the space between heaven and earth. Hawaii can claim the Spirit of Aloha, California can have Rincon, Huntington Beach and Trestles, but only here can you be Full On Oregon and Shit.