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!