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 – 

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