SUP Surprises: Oregon Coast Delivers

Two "Elder SUPs" on an adventure

Two “Elder SUPs” on an adventure

It was the final day of our “SUP Surf” trip tp the southern Oregon Coast.  A wicked series of winter storms fueled by gale force winds and torrential rain filled the creeks and rivers to flood stage. The best surfing is near the mouths of these rivers and conditions were not good for our favorite water play. So we hiked and explored for eight amazing days.

On our final day we took a hike that hadn’t been advertised much, and we took off through the wonderous forest without much expectation – and then we came upon Indian Sands Beach. The 3 hours we were held spell-bound flew by. The video captures a bit of the adventure but you must see it for yourself.

Below the video is a collection of links to all of the articles which journal each day of the “2015 Great Winter SUP Trip.”

Great Winter SUP Trip Great Winter Trip Day 2SUP Travel: Expect Wonder Rainy Days and Sunday: Cozy FoodHere Comes the SunWinter Glassy Surf: Brookings OregonStories from Under the Waves –SUP Adventures:  Nature Dictates –


The Story from Under the Waves

A lucky shot captured with my cell phone in 2012 at Pipeline

A lucky shot captured with my cell phone in 2012 at Pipeline


Sitting up on the cliff above Peahi (Jaws), bracing against wind as Ho’okipa fires off, joining the crowds on the beach at Pipeline or watching storm surf off the Oregon Coast, waves fascinate us. It’s not so much about surfing as the power and mysteries of the ocean at its most extreme.

lowtide1Low tide and everything exposed as the ocean retreats twice a day allows exciting exploration of tide pools – and more. This week we had so many opportunities to explore the geologic formations that form the waves we love to ride.

One of the most compelling accounts of the rocks and bottom formation that create the power and personality of a particular wave.

rockyhikewaves2In her book (The Wave) by Susan Casey does an exceptional job of explaining the natural forces (winds, currents, ocean-bottom shape) that create these daunting surfing spots, and in particular her exploration under Jaws with Laird Hamilton.  Casey’s account of the impromptu adventure is terrific, you’ll want to give it a read.


The beach at the end of the Cape Sebastian hike, rocky vantage point is to the right of this area

capesebpatternThere’s a beautiful 2-mile hike from the viewpoint at Cape Sebastian, just north of the Pistol River and south of Gold Beach.

capesebwave2 Take the hike (and then be very careful) to the right to an incredible viewpoint. We were fortunate to arrive just after low tide, with the rocks that shape the waves – and are shaped BY the waves, exposed. Detail and variation from dense to sandstone invited a careful, closer look.rockyhike

Shoreline climb near Harris Beach State Park

Shoreline climb near Harris Beach State Park

Many of the haystack type formations were available to climb. From high vantage points we saw the effect of  this week’s low pressure and storms.The size of a swell is determined by the strength of the wind and the length of its fetch and duration. Because of this, surf was huge this week.

rockyhikegreenAccording to Wikipedia, “The most important influence on wave shape is the topography of the seabed directly behind and immediately beneath the breaking wave. The contours of the reef or bar front becomes stretched by diffraction. Each break is different, since each location’s underwater topography is unique. At beach breaks, sandbanks change shape from week to week.”

rockyhike3So we explored up, on, over, around and under the exposed rock and sand formations. It was a fascinating exploration of waves – from the beach.

capeseb3 capesebwave6Great Winter SUP Trip Great Winter Trip Day 2SUP Travel: Expect Wonder Rainy Days and Sunday: Cozy FoodHere Comes the SunWinter Glassy Surf: Brookings OregonStories from Under the Waves –SUP Adventures:  Nature Dictates – 

SUP Adventures: Nature Dictates


Balancing with the power and pounding of the sea almost 360 degrees around the SUP perspective is fresh and exciting – even without a paddle.

For months I had been planning all day every day paddling and SUP surfing during our “Great Winter SUP Trip.” Today is day 7 and the boards remain in their bags – two Naish Hokuas and two Naish ONEs,  Strangely, we have enjoyed some of the coolest waves. Instead of connecting with the force and beauty of the ocean underfoot while skimming its face, the waves have been all visual and full of the crash-pounding melody that calls us all to the sea.

We have gone to Pacific City for a long weekend and spent the full 3 days on the beach in and out of the water for surf sessions and paddles along the Nestucca River. In a week in the southern part of Oregon coast in the winter we have seen 2 surfers – and not a SUP water-person at all. Yet we feel more connected to the sea than ever.

IMG_4751IMG_4749_2IMG_4748_2Yesterday we took the hike from the view point at Cape Sebastian down a switchback series to a fork in the trail. In one direction was the hike to the beach – beautiful, for sure.

But we also took the fork to a series of rock outcroppings that rose 50 feet out of the water and about 500 feet into the ocean. Canyons filled with waves offering 10 ft faces. A lone gray whale rolled and blew as it rolled and dove not 150 yards from us. On the trip down south, these giant mammals head on a direct course, move quickly, and mostly stay about 5 miles offshore. Coming back, the whales travel much more leisurely and stay closer to shore—within a half mile is not unusual. We feel lucky to have spotted our lone whale.

The feeling of sitting on a precarious rock outcropping and waiting for the large set waves was so similar to standing on our Hokuas and waiting for a sweet set wave to ride.

IMG_4760In fact, because the entire process of waiting for waves and standing in awe of their magnificent power was all about the wave – not about our ride – maybe it delivered us to a closer tie with the waves we love to experience.

Later that evening we sat by our fire and watched the sun sink in a sea of light pink and peach – almost a shadow of the night before when it was a fiery explosion of color, almost celebrating the end of the storms.


Ed and I have been heading to the sea in sailboats and on surfboards since 1965 – and he has never had the inspiration to stand in a perfectly executes “Mountain Pose” in front of a magnificent ocean environment. We never tired of waves crashing against the solid, grounded magnificence of the many rock formations on this coast.

IMG_4677We should be all bummed out because we didn’t have the surf and paddle trip we planned – but we are NOT! Instead, perhaps we have never appreciated the gift of experiencing the sea and its beaches like we have this week – right in the middle if what is usually our gray, snowy winter.

Surf is where you find it – thanks for that, Gerry Lopez!

Winter Glassy Surf: Brookings, OR

brsunsetTuesday night’s sunset over the surf break in Brookings, OR was breath-taking. The waves were chest high to just overhead and glassy good.  In this light all looks idyllic. Can we finally hit the water and SUP surf, paddle up river and explore?

Talking to rangers at the beach and a few other locals we learned, “Increased pathogen and fecal bacteria levels in ocean waters can come from shore and inland sources such as storm water runoff.”


Surfer at dusk, enjoying the first sunny day in a long time. (Photo by Ed Shasek)

In short, we can surf – but maybe we should wait a few more days for some clearing of the water to take place. It’s not easy to watch these waves roll in, but in the daylight the obvious amount of river run-off has turned each wave a brown muddy color. Water and various bacteria issues are common world-wide. Caution, a hot shower after a dip in the seas affected by run-off, make all the difference.

We were on Maui and Oahu a few times after winter rains flooded rivers driving golf course and farm run-off into the sea. Warning signs at the beaches were very clear – DO NOT GO INTO THE WATER. Both bacteria and other (think shark) risk occur while the water is murky.

As we drove up the coast from Brookings, past Gold Beach to Port Orford we passed numerous rivers and creeks, all coursing their way to sea. The beaches are carved with picturesque pools and sandbars from the fresh water sculpting. But the browns of these waters contrast sharply with the clean green-blue of the bays away from the rivers. Ore-South-South-Coast

For that reason we decided to do our crabbing off the working dock at Port Orford. Good decision! It was informational, fun to talk with the local crabbers and staff on the dock.

Seals played and the male crabs eluded us – but we grabbed our share of fun.

So, no surfing for a day or so. Thinking water should clear considerably by Thursday – and the waves are predicted to be chest to head high, our favorite. Winds, calm. Even better!

brcrabfoot brcrabgirls brcrabsubset brcrab1

Here Comes the Sun: SUP Trip Fun

IMG_4695After four days of dark day cloudiness (exciting storm-watch fun days)  the sun set on the Pacific last night switching on golden beauty.

This shot of a 100 ft tall haystack off Harris Beach State Park provided an incredible burst of orange sunburst through a wave-worn notch at its base.

Without gale force winds and sideways rain we suddenly couldn’t wait to explore our beach. For the first time we took the short hike from our campsite down the trail to the nearby “marine gardens” area. There are no words for what we encountered. IMG_4677

The surf report says today andThursday could be just the conditions we have hoped for. With daytime highs at 60 degrees we are ready for an all day adventure with sand and/or waves underfoot.

grottoThe last stormy day did not disappoint. If you are in the Coos Bay area, be sure to fuel up with fish and chips at Fisherman’s Grotto. We ran into a Simpson local (his great grandfather was part of the original group to settle Charleston) full of stories. No matter who came in, conversation bubbled from table to table – and the fish ‘n chips were crisp and delicious.

shore-acres-state-parkOur next stop was Shore Acres Park where we hung onto the viewing rail a hundred feet above the raging sea smashing sky high wave bursts.  If the frigid wind didn’t chill us to the bone we would have stayed for hours.

IMG_4684Tide pools, rock formations, cliff views and trekking – this winter SUP trip is delivering beyond expectation.



Rainy Days and Sunday – Cozy Food

I'd rather be paddling my KIALOA Tiare - but the redwoods were awesome

I’d rather be paddling my KIALOA Tiare – but the redwoods were awesome

It’s our third night out on the “Great Winter SUP Trip” and the wind keeps cranking into the 30-40 mph range, although the time between rainstorms is getting longer. The trip is the epitome of making the best of what the weather delivers. We have yet to see a single surfer or paddler out in the water.

So we bundled in to the car and headed out. We explored from Brookings, OR to Orick, CA in the Redwood National and State Parks today. We dodged rain, a herd of elk (safe distance), fallen trees and shoreline salt spray.

day32          day31

As dusk approached we bundled up for a hike on the Lookout Trail above Harris Beach State Park for some peek-a-boos of sun – YAY.

soupAs dinner time approached it just seemed like a night for soup. Luckily, a few weeks ago I had made a number of crudite’ trays with lots of leftovers. I sauteed all of it – carrots, zucchini, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, even some cucumber with onion in a little olive oil. Simmering it all in vegetable broth smelled good but did not have the robust flavor I wanted.

Looking around I spotted about 8 oz of leftover hummus and about 2 oz of Manchego cheese. Soon it was all simmering and mingling flavors. That frozen goodness became our dinner – with  a fresh green salad and garlic bread. soup2

Here’s the hummus recipe – what a delicious addition to a vegetable soup.

4 garlic cloves
2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, liquid reserved
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons water
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
Scant 1/4 cup olive oil – only as much as is needed to create the texture you like.
8 dashes hot sauce

Directions: Place the chickpeas, garlic, and kosher salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 15 to 20 seconds. Stop, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and process for another 15 to 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice and water. Process for 20 seconds. Add the tahini. Process for 20 seconds, then scrape down the sides of the bowl. With the processor running, drizzle in the olive oil and about 8 dashes of hot sauce.

SUP Travel: Expect Wonder

road1If you have been following the “Great Oregon Winter SUP Road Trip” you know that an epic (in a negative way) three-day long band of intense rain and wind storms is hammering the coastline from Northern CA  north through the Oregon coast.  (Day 1 StoryDay 2 Story)

Actually, it’s not a problem. The RV sites we have found have been STELLAR.

road2Last night as the winds roared wild from the south,  gusting to 50 or more, we slept soundly at Harbor Vista Park (Lane County) outside of Florence. If you plan to go there you will be happy with any site, but for unobstructed ocean views – plan ahead and try to get #13 (secret awesome tip). Just a short walk from the site you’ll find a great hike to a wide area where the Siuslaw River joins the Pacific. Seals play and so will you.

road7Today we worked our way down to Harris Beach State Park in  Brookings. Along the way we saw a sign with flashing lights that said, “GUSTING WINDS next 27 miles” – what were we supposed to do? We drove on. Later we saw a sign that said “high water,” and a mile down the road we were pushing a pretty big bow wake with our truck and trailer.

We arrived at Harris Beach State Park and scored an awesome, ocean view site (bonus tip – A 18 can’t be reserved but try to get it). Right now we are being hammered by a powerful storm band, but again, we are loving the ocean view right from the couch where I’m typing. Within a 30 minute walk in any direction there are rocks and views we plan to absorb over the next week. road5

Our Naish Hokuas are still wrapped in their board bags, the surf is chaotic and huge. The rivers are pouring muddy fresh water into the sea, so surfing is not particularly inviting or safe. That said, the beaches in this area could not be more picture postcard perfect. As we drove through Bandon we took a shoreline detour and found a great beach walk in the Devil’s Kitchen area.  The sun came out, creating a monochromatic scene.

road4So, until the weather clears we will spend some time watching H2Mexico and The SUP Movie while the rain pelts us. But don’t worry. We are well fed and pretty happy. We had a yummy fish and chips at the warm and cheery Crazy Norweigan restaurant in Port Orford. As the evening evolves, a nice bottle of Beaujolais-Villages keeps me calm while the trailer wiggles from time to time.

But tomorrow – the BIG storm band is on its way. By noon the weather man predicts the worst of the storm will be upon us and winds will be blowing off the chart. Stay tuned.



Great Winter Paddle Trip – Day 2

ar1I had never heard of an “atmospheric river” until last night a 2 am. That was when the top half of a huge, ancient juniper tree blew off and careened more than 150 ft before stopping a few yards before crashing into our home. At that time we woke up, ran to the computer to check the weather. (Full story here)

Yes, an “atmospheric river” will hammer northern CA and most of the Oregon coast and valleys over the next three days – winds gusting to 60 mph. I must be delusional. I actually believed that we would wait until Monday or Tuesday to embark across the Santiam Pass, through the valleys and on to the coast with our “high profile = danger/danger” travel trailer vehicle. ar2

Just got the call, we are going – in an hour.  At first I wanted to rebell and push the “wait until nice weather” button.

What does this have to do with paddling? Or Elder SUP philosophy? The more I think about it, quite a lot.

First is trust. Ed is an experienced and careful seaman – having sailed across large ocean channels in all sorts of storms and weather for almost 50 years. Knowing ahead of time the safe ports always allowed for smart voyages.  KNowing his boat and crew (oops, I am the crew this time) makes all the difference.  If we wait for the perfect time – the best waves, the sunniest days, the glassy conditions, the favoring currents we might miss the adventure altogether.

SO we will set sail – on the road (and hopefully will not literally ‘set sail) very soon. Updates will come on Facebook through the day – with photos.  Yes, we will go – but we will also stay aware, on alert and be prepared to tacked and change strategies as needed.



Rainy Winter Coast Trip: Yippee!

Me and Ed at Hollywood, FL beach in summer 1965. Yup, 50 years together.

Me and Ed at Hollywood, FL beach in summer 1965. Yup, 50 years together.

During the 52 years we lived in South Florida there were norms. You didn’t go to the beach in the rain, you wore bathing suits to the beach, not raingear and fleece, and you didn’t go to the beach when it was cold (think less than 65 degrees) out. Now, after 14 years in Oregon we are packing up the trailer and heading to the Southern Oregon coast from Florence to Brookings.

I “get” the mascots chosen by Oregon State and University of Oregon now. The Ducks and the beavers. As I pack I make sure to have down and water repellant gear (Go Ducks). I have warm shoes, boots and my SUP paddle for exploring the rivers and bays (Go Beavers).

Naish ONE inside, some snacks and a camera! Ready to go Alpine SUPping

Naish ONE inside, some snacks and a camera! Ready to go

The crab trap and fishing gear is packed. We have our Naish ONE inflatables tucked into the truck and our Hokuas bagged and on the roof. KIALOA paddles for surfing and exploring are in their bags. We have a huge crab pot, a grill basket for fresh fish, GoPro and cameras. We have wetsuits and booties – OK, let’s GO!

kiawandastorm2A winter beach trip in Oregon may not promise balmy, sunny days – who cares? We expect wonder, awe, beauty and surprises. Stay tuned for “talk story” as these former Floridians get their gray-wet-winter coastal baptism.

Great Winter SUP Trip Great Winter Trip Day 2SUP Travel: Expect Wonder Rainy Days and Sunday: Cozy FoodHere Comes the SunWinter Glassy Surf: Brookings OregonStories from Under the Waves –SUP Adventures:  Nature Dictates –