Oregon Wind Surfing

I would be remiss, if I didn’t at least write a short article on the Oregon windsurfing phenomena. The first location is on the Columbia Gorge.  Last summer I traveled from Portland to Hood River, which sits on the gorge, and then on to Bend, Oregon–where I took an awesome brewery tour.  They have 21 craft breweries!  But I digress. When I stopped  to eat at Hood River the river was full of windsurfers battling the frothing surf.  I started talking to my food server, who was a local, I learned that the waves are nuke when the water is so frothy it is white and the mist is so fine, it looks like smoke over the water.  He said the reason he was working as a waiter that summer was so he could hit the waves every day.

Windsurfing is a sport that combines surfing and sailing.  The windsurfer stands on a board that is similar to a short board.  Attached is a sail that can pivot 360 degrees on a dime.  It consists of a mast, 2-sided boom and the sail. Windsurfers not only ride the waves by combining the energy of the wave with the lift of the wind to mimic the wave riding of the traditional surfer, they also bump and jump, which means they use the short choppy waves to launch themselves several feet in the air.  Advanced riders do complicated tricks while they are catching airtime.  Extreme winds and water have to combine to create choppy high speed waves that carry the energy for surfing.  Regular surfing relies on  a large fetch to generate the perfect ground swells.  Windsurfing needs a smaller fetch to capture the energy so it builds momentum against itself.


Oregon has two of the best windsurfing locations in the world.  The first is at Pistol River, 8 miles south of Gold Beach.  The season runs from April through September, but the waves are consistent and reliable beginning in May.  The immediate area surrounding Pistol River is the windiest spot in Oregon.  It is not a spot for beginners.  They will want to go a mile north.  Windsurfers hit the waves from 9:00 A.M. to nightfall.  The conditions are so prefect, the America Windsurfing Tour added the Pistol River Bash.  This year it ran from June 11-14.  Windsurfers streamed into the Oregon to try their skills bumping and jumping on the nuclear waves.  The locals can just step out their door to windsurf before or after work.  The rest of us will have to drive up Highway 101 or fly into Del Norte County Regional Airport and take a shuttle or limo to Pistol River, 46 miles away, or you can fly into Portland Airport, which may have cheaper airfare, but it is 365 miles away.  The closest airport is Gold Beach Airport, if you fly your own plane.   Read more Oregon Wind Surfing

Northern California Surfing

Southern California is an internationally known surfing destination, but its cold-water sister offers epic waves for those willing to brave sharks, 50 degree water, and hostile locals. Due to a large population of seals and sea lions, sharks sightings are plentiful.  Thirty foot swells can be intimidating to all but expert level surfers.  As you descend from the North Pacific coast on Highway 1, the water warms up a bit and waves that appeal to all surfing levels, intermediate, advanced, and expert-level surfers will be impressed.  Right in the middle of the “Red Triangle” there have been more shark than any where else in the world.

Called the “frontier of surfing,” beginning at the Marion/San Francisco county and continuing up through Sonoma, Medocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte, Northern California features some terrifying yet unforgettable surfing experiences.

Ocean Beach is an iconic part of the San Francisco coastline. Eight to fifteen foot waves are not unusual, attracting surfers who want to build their skills.  With well-shaped tubes on a sandy bottom, the surf can be big trimming in toward the shore. Heading south along the coast will bring you a quieter paddle out.

Traveling to Sonoma County, the Salmon river mouth waves break over a sandbar.  On good days the powerful waves can be rewarding for advanced riders.  Average days yield smaller waves suitable for beginners.  The sandy bottom makes it forgiving for wipe-outs.

The coastal area near Point Arena in Mendocino owes its occasional high quality wave to a rocky reef. Right breaking waves are steady and fast.

Humbolt County is knows for the North Jetty.  The locals have guarded this secret and are not always welcoming to guests.  But consistent breaks with clean barrels, make it worth the invading the beachhead.

Some of the most nuclear waves off Northern California shores are found in Patrick’s Point  State Park home to dense forests with a dramatic tidal pools while surfing you can watch whales, sea lions and brilliant sunsets. Although there are submerged rocks, the waves can be excellent, if you are an expert surfer.  The swells can be large and dangerous.  Agate Beach can also produce good consistent waves.

Although you will not find monsters at Moonstone, it is a good spot for a wide range of different surfing styles and skills levels. This is a wide open beach will deliver perfect speed barrels or right and left waves depending on the wind and tidal swell.

When you reach Del Norte and the Klamath River you will have reached “The Home of Hardcore Surfing.”  An advanced surfer will enjoy a right-hand barrel from the river mouth. Wetsuits are still required.

As you can see, although Southern California is the most popular destination for surfers.  Northern California offers unique experiences for even the most experienced surfers.