The Eye of the Beholder: Surf Stoke

dune3So it was on one of those gray, foggy days on the Pacific NW coast. Morning dawned semi-cloudy, then on and off the fog rolled in, reminding us  of the proverbial NE “pea soup,” but thicker. The ocean seemed to be taking a Fall reprieve, resting calmly, with glassy rolling waves, but no swell to speak of. With the air temp in the low 60’s and the water about 7 degrees cooler it seemed a good day to hike the dune at Cape Kiwanda and call it good.

But when you’re 67 and you live 4 hours from a coast and winter is breathing hard down your neck – well, you put on the wetsuit and hit the water.

It’s like almost everything else in life, half the win is simply showing up. So, while shivering on the beach I pulled on my 4/3 Rip Curl wetsuit (love its color and style, softness and ZIPPER) and put on my leash. Swell or no swell, I was going out to whatever the break at Pacific City had to give.

bestrighthay1I could not even see the HUGE haystack rock that sits like a crown jewel off the beach because the fog had gobbled it up. Because of that, it was difficult for me to determine my favorite spot to wait for a swell to roll in.

Over time I drifted further and further south. I don’t usually head in that direction but the fog had left me without the usual bearings.

So cool! Swells were rolling in over there. They were chest to head high and glassy beyond all hope.

While the wait between swells was seemingly long, the reward was worth it – also the chat among all of us (prone and SUP). There were dozens of prone longboard riders out in the lineup.

fogturnUsually I hunker over to a shoulder of the swell to keep my standup out of the way of the prone surfers, but on this day the stoke was warm – and that was cool! Very cool.We all bantered about the weird weather and the length between sets. There seemed to be room for all on the waves that came through. Share and respect made the day! fogcenter

As we close every day at Pacific City we wandered down to the beach for a beer and sunset. The  afternoon drizzle didn’t deliver a sunset, but the view was magical just the same. The magic at our favorite beach, our top ten break – all in the eye of the beholder.moon

Enjoy YOUR stoke!

 

 

 

 

 

Oregon Coast: Gotta Go Fish

pc20153We packed our trailer and headed out from Bend, OR in mid-September with iflatables for cruising adventures and a couple of boards for SUP surf. Pacific City – here we come. The weekend kicked off with the annual Longboard competition. Saturday offered up some sweet waves, glassy and chest to head high. Riding a swell all the way to shore in the shadow of beautiful Cape Kiwanda on a warm sunny day is just about paradise.pc20151

In spite of dozens of trips to Pacific City and a few days catching salmon in both the spring and fall runs, we had never paddled the branch of the Nestucca River that flows east from town all the way to the inlet where the Pacific comes roaring in.

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Screenshot (152)On our first trip we knew we were paddling out on an out-going tide. With a spinning rod on Ed’s board and my net strapped to my board we planned to fish at the inlet where all the boats seemed to have the most luck. After a few hours of fishing, the tide would be incoming, making the paddle back a breeze.

We put in at “Guardrails,” just across from Bob Straub State Park. The trip was idyllic – seals sunbathed by the dozens on untracked sandy beaches, forested cliffs reached high to the south and the closer we got to the inlet the more clear and marine blue it became.pc20159

Currents swirled with plenty of energy as we approached the south side of the inlet. Absolutely wear your PFD and use a leash. There were so many combinations of eddies, waves and powerful current that it took concentration to get from the inlet area to the pocket beach we founf on shore – but was it ever WORTH IT! pc201522

After about an hour of casting, Ed hooked in to a HUGE salmon. As it leaped, guys in the 16 boats fishing the inlet gave a thumbs up and the fight was on. Just as Ed was about to get spooled, the fish began to turn. Then, unawares, a boat cruised across the inlet and cut the line. We lost the fish but gained some friends among the fishermen.

A few days later we were back for the third time and one of the guys from the first day – the BIG fish day – offered to put Ed in his boat and take him out for a salmon. They had caught their limit and had to admire Ed’s presistance. I also think they admired our trips up and down the river stretch paddling our SUPs in all kinds of conditions over the week.

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The one day that an incoming tide couldn’t match the 20-25 mph headwind on our return home was something we would not like to repeat. Even the best laid plans come up against good old Mother Nature. Be prepared, know your waters, tides, winds and currents and stya with your paddle buddy.

pc20157Our last night in Pacific City with fresh grilled salmon, a beach walk at sunset and a local brew could not have been better.

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Your Little Beach Town: Off-Season Awesome

cck4On the deck of Cottage 13 of the Cottages at Cape Kiwanda this morning I was sipping Fogcutter coffee freshly made from the Five Rivers coffee provided in our kitchen. Small lines of waves rolled past the Haystack Rock bobbing a few early morning surfers when two dark “somethings” rolled southward just off shore of their position.  “Whales or seals?” I wondered. Then the playful duo began to roll and ride the waves – definitely a couple of seals out for fun.

I have probably spent 100 days on this Pacific City beach over the past 10 years in every season and in all sorts of weather. There is something magical and unique about being here in what many consider the “off-seasons” of Fall and Winter. Few crowds, less fog and the opportunity of availability and lower rates at the luxurious 2- and 3-bedroom oceanfront suites of the Cottage at Cape Kiwanda on the Oregon Coast.

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cck2After a day hiking the beach in the “all to ourselves” afternoon in this mid September off-season, we ended our yesterday the same way we began our today – “Good night and good morning” from the cottage deck perched high enough on the dune to give an amazing view of beach life in and out of the sea.

After hiking up the shoulder of  Cape Kiwanda with my daughter – granddaughter squealing with glee in her hiking pack we strolled around sunset gilded tide pools where tiny toes danced in Pacific Ocean waves for the very first time. Ready for the fireplace and some home-cooked dinner we played “gourmet chef” in the fully appointed kitchen. Spaghetti sauce and meatballs simmered in the Cuisinart cookware while music stereo system filled every corner with our favorite tunes.

cck5From the custom-made cherry tables and dovetail-joint dressers, hand-blown glass sconces and rich leather sofas we enjoyed the perfect blend of contemporary and cozy. We have only been here 18 hours – and 8 of those hours were spent sleeping like a baby – yes, even the baby – nestled in the luxury that only top quality beds and bedding can provide.

With our bedroom window tipped slightly open the soothing sound of the sea buoy mingled with sleepy rolling surf kissing the shore. Before heading out for today’s fun we freshened up with a shower that was nothing less than a spa experience in itself. If you haven’t been spoiled by luxurious bamboo linens
and SpaH2O bath amenities be ready for absolute bliss. cck7

Yes! We are ready to head out for another day of fun – and are already looking forward to coming back to our wonderful home away from home Cottage.

SUP Adventures: Nature Dictates

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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.

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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!

Kiwanda Wonder: From the Inn

pc-feetfireI spent 52 years of my life in South Florida where I equated a “beach day” with sunshine, temperatures above 70 degrees and a bathing suit with sunscreen slopped on generously. For the past dozen years the Oregon coast has introduced an entirely new and amazing meaning to “a day at the beach.” Nowhere is it more wonderful than at what has become “My Little Beach Town” like it has for so many others. We took a late September long weekend at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda recently and were greeted by weather that – at one time – would have encouraged me to be indoors. Not now!

Overcast skies only served to bring us all a bit closer – to our toasty beach fires.  The wind was barely moving the colorful kites streaming along behind flocks of kids using barefoot running for wind-power – fueled by giggles and glee. A toddling towhead decked out in cozy fleece danced close to the waves adding a glisten to the low-tide sand while his watchful dad put finishing touches on the sand castle. Two sprightly seniors were sipping coffee mid afternoon as the tide began to switch from low to high. As the glassy waves built into more organized sets, they hopped up, donned their wet-suits and headed out for a standup surf session.  I have to admit – the two seniors were me and Ed.pc-sept-surf

It was so much fun catching wave after wave, even though the rides were short that afternoon, the waves were glassy goodness over and over again.  We came ashore and back to our room (and the toasty fireplace) in time to shower and dress for the 5:30-6:30 Friday night wine and cheese sampling party in the lobby of the Inn at Cape Kiwanda. This week’s end ritual begins with few people knowing each other – but soon conversation is lively. We took turns checking out the birds on the haystack with the telescope in the lobby.  As we snacked on fruit and cheese we recalled the day’s fun – how many hiked up the dune and took photos of the awesome view. Those who hadn’t quickly made plans for the next day.  As the hour wound down a few of us lingered by the fireplace while others made plans to meet for dinner at the Pelican Pub.

pc-beachcarSaturday morning dawned a bit foggy with the haystack rock rising ghost-like out of a low bank of cloud.  Again, it was no time to remain indoors and miss the wonder. As we walked across the parking lot of the Pelican Pub we had to look twice at what we were seeing. A lone guy was standing mid-way between the waves and the dunes doing – something? The air between him and the fog was all glimmering with light refracted somehow into rainbows in the shape of a sphere. Holy cow! He had a bucket of soap and a huge bubble blowing wand. He’d dip the wand into the bucket, hold it high and allow the light morning breeze to billow out bubbles nearly 4 feet in diameter. They would bounce and dance for a bit then disappear in a poof.

pc-3horsesIn a light drizzle that was mixed with peeks of sunshine in the blue windows between the clouds we took our coffee out to the beach for our walk down to watch the dory boats launch for their early morning catch. After a hike up the dune at Cape Kiwanda we began to make our way back to enjoy breakfast on our balcony.  As we were strolling back, the muted hoof beats of a group of horses caught our attention, just in time to snap another photo of what makes Pacific City beach wonderful in every sort of weather. Don’t miss it!

The Inn at Cape Kiwanda

The Inn at Cape Kiwanda

Pacific City: Our Little Beach Town

Where is your little beach town? Is it crowded and filled with touristy stuff, isolated and wrapped in stunning beauty or lined with high-rise hotels? What brings you to your little beach town? is it the waves, water, sand, views and brisk salty air? I have been to beach towns form Belize to Friday Harbor, Abaco Bahamas (in the sweet 1970’s) to Waikiki, Paia,  and Tortola. Each has a personality and vibe all its own.  If you find yourself looking for a beach town experience in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll be hard-pressed to discover a jewel more unique than Pacific City, Oregon.

IMG_1580As a standup paddler you have the Nestucca River at your back and the haystack rock centered on a sandy-bottomed surf break ahead. It can be a sun-swept mellow beach, a dream-like foggy experience, or a gnarly wind-tossed storm surf drama. You can find all sorts of accommodations from tent or rustic cabin camping at the Kiwanda RV park, to every sort of beachfront cottage or home you could want.  We have often camped with friends when visiting Pacific City over the past decade, but this visit was just right for exploring the Inn at Cape Kiwanda just above our favorite espresso place, Stimulus Espresso Cafe.

pelicanThe hub of the surfing and beach-going area of Pacific City is the busy parking lot next to the famous Pelican Pub. The ambiance and sense of  community that is evident throughout the entire town of Pacific City seems to be distilled just perfectly in this corner of the dune strewn oceanfront.

It was a terrific experience for me, as a standup surfer and avid low-tide hiker and Kiwanda Dune climber to stay at the Inn at cape Kiwanda. The story of that experience can be found in this article. (click to read more)

I learned that the Inn is just one of the Nestucca Ridge Family of Companies, an organically grown collection of coastal businesses dedicated to memory-making beach vacations, meetings and ownership experiences.  Mary J. Jones and Jeff Schons came to Pacific City in 1990 and immediately knew it would be there home forever. Since that day, their vision has guided the creation of all the businesses that are part of their family of companies today. Their commitment to excellence at a wide range of price point and lodging options was evident from the first moment I stepped into the lobby of the Inn.

IMG_1573ki-flipflopIt is an elegant, flip-floppy kind of place. There are fresh flowers framing the fireplace and a cozy braided rug covering polished wood floors. The two story span of windows welcomes natural light and frames a breath-taking view . A high-powered pair of binoculars is positioned on a tripod inviting me to gaze out at the details and birds on haystack rock.

I know that the standard of excellence at the ultra-luxurious, oceanfront Cottages at Cape Kiwanda is  top-notch spa quality luxury in  2- and 3-bedroom oceanfront suites complete with gourmet kitchens and full media centers. The Inn is the more casual accommodation. It might be more casual but the attention to detail and preserving the unique local flavor of Pacific City is obvious.

The first thing I noticed was impeccable cleanliness – the forte of any great hotel property is cleanliness, great customer service and having everything in top working order consistently. The Inn holds its own among the collection of boutique properties envisioned by Mary and Jeff and managed by expert and passionate,  Jeremy Strober, the Director of Lodging and Marketing. From the desk staff in the reception area to the gentleman changing a parking area light-bulb, everyone had a smile and the time answer questions and meet needs.

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View of the Inn at Cape Kiwanda

After a windy and sandy hike up the Cape Kiwanda Dune, nothing felt better than a hot shower – and top-quality towels and bed linens. Washing sand and salt out of my hair with the Aveda rosemary-mint shampoo and conditioner had me feeling spa-spoiled for sure.

The flat screen TV and free dvd was tempting, but a cold glass of beer from the in-room refrigerator holding our Pelican Pub growler cool was what got us out on our ocean-view deck to watch the sunset. We were out of the wind but with the feeling that we were “on the beach.”

A late dinner was easy, the Pelican Pub is open until 10 PM every night.  We enjoyed the energy of the almost full dining room but thought that tomorrow night we will go out on the deck about 8 PM and enjoy the sunset there.

If you come to the coast to surf, SUP and paddle, take a look at the “Perfect beach Town article for more about Pacific City.

SUP: Perfect Beach Town

Inn at Cape Kiwanda is nestled between the light colored dune and the darker hill to the right - all ocean view rooms

Inn at Cape Kiwanda is nestled between the light colored dune and the darker hill to the right – all ocean view rooms

What’s a perfect beach for SUP paddling and surfing? Sandy bottom, glassy waves, no crowds, clear water warm enough for no wetsuit – does that work for you? Well, except for the warm water and no wetsuit, Pacific City, Oregon is pretty close to ideal.  The swells can be predicted and the mix of surfing waves goes the gamut.  The ambiance in a beach town can add a lot to our SUP surfing and paddling experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am staying at the Inn at Cape Kiwanda this trip and finding it to be an incredible spot for a super surf trip experience. In previous trips I have stayed at a nearby campground, in a camping cottage or in a rental home set back from the ocean. The heart of Pacific City’s beach scene is the triumvirate of the Cape Kiwanda Dune, the Pelican Pub and the iconic Haystack rock about a mile off shore.

This “haystack” stands 327 feet (100 m) above the sea and is the world’s fourth largest sea stack or off-shore monolith in the world. The Inn at Cape Kiwanda is situated right in the middle of these three with an ocean view from every room. IMG_1580

While that is a nice amenity, its value to us as SUP surfers on the Oregon coast is enormous.  That early morning surf check in case the waves are right for a “dawn patrol” is usually a chilly trek from where you spent the night to the parking lot next to Pelican Pub. There we usually huddle in ski jackets holding our morning coffee close and tight. This morning I simply rolled over, still in the cozy bed, and check ed out the sets coming in at pre low tide. Not yet ready to surf, I made some coffee and went out on the deck.

capewaves2From there I could view the far western edge of Cape Kiwanda Dune, where the sets announce their arrival with a wash over the jutting rocks. I took a long beach walk and enjoyed the art – created by clouds, water and sand.IMG_1587

By noon as I had a light lunch back on the deck at the Inn, I started to notice larger arcs of whitewater wrapping around the end of the dune. These sets came in consistently for bout 20 minutes. i timed the intervals between sets and decided, with incoming tide and lighter than expected winds, it was a great time to don the wetsuit and head out. An hour later I was chilly but had my fill of waist to chest high rides cutting right and left on fairly glassy faces.

Now came a real treat. I loaded my board onto my car and drove over to the Inn at Cape Kiwanda. Just outside of the lobby is a WARM WATER shower. I doused the board and myself – it felt wonderful.  After drying a bit it was back to the room for a rest and a book.  But as I read, I could keep an eye on the incoming tide and the dory boats coming in – right up on the sand.

I must have dozed off – about 4:00 the swell seemed to build a bit. The expected afternoon winds didn’t materialize and I was right there, front and center to observe the sea.  Back into my wetsuit and an afternoon session I might have missed if i hadn’t been right there – better than any webcam!