In Oregon, there”s really no such thing as a bad time to head to the beach. The Oregon coast is extremely popular in the warmer months of the Pacific Northwest. One unique way of avoiding the crowds on the sand? Entering the water! With breaks for all levels of surfers, from the north to the south, there are plenty of places to put your board in the water and feel the energy of the Pacific Ocean for yourself. Whether you”re just starting out or you”ve been in the water for years, there”s something for everyone here. Grab your board (or rent one) and throw some Dick Dale on the stereo for the drive to the coast. We”ve gathered up some of the best places in Oregon to learn to ride a wave.
A view south from Gearhart Beach to Seaside. Photo by Shane Kucera.If you”re looking to escape the seriously crowded beaches of Seaside, Gearhart is a nearby alternative. Long and sandy, there”s plenty of room for surfers, sand castles, and beach strollers. No long walk to the water here; you can drive your rig right out onto the sand and set up in style anywhere on the roughly 8-mile stretch. After you”ve exhausted yourself in the water, warm up by a beach fire and watch the sun go down. Just don”t burn the driftwood, that”s prohibited.
Indian Beach – Ecola State Park
Parking lot at Indian Head Beach. Photo by Halvor Tweto.Located within Ecola State Park, the mostly right breaks of Indian Beach offer enormous scenery along with the waves. The massive basalt of the Tillamook Headland dates back 15 million years and makes for impressive viewing from the rarified perch on a surfboard. There are lots of kayakers here as well, so be mindful of other users in the water. While watching incoming swell, check out Terrible Tilly, the lighthouse on Tillamook Rock. No longer in service, the lighthouse has a fascinating history.
Sunset at Cannon Beach. Photo by Shane Kucera.Earning its name from the 1922 discovery of a cannon from the wreckage of the USS Shark, Cannon Beach is one of the most well known beaches on the Oregon coast. Close to both Portland and Salem, this is an extremely popular summer destination. While in the water, you”ll be treated to views of Haystack Rock, home to thousands of sea birds. Early mornings and also evenings are best here on wind-free days. This is a particularly mellow stretch that is well-suited to beginners.
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Short Sand Beach
Short Sand Beach. Photo by Tyson Gillard.One of the more popular surfing spots for beginners, Short Sand Beach (also known as Shorty”s or Short Sands) can get crowded on the weekends during summer months. Nicely protected from rough weather in Smuggler”s Cove, the waves have good consistency here. More advanced surfers may feel a little irked by the number of inexperienced boards in the water. For those just starting out, this is an excellent spot, however. A short half-mile hike to the water from the main parking lot of Oswald West State Park gives the surfer quite the visual treat. Old-growth forest of Sitka spruce lines the trail to the beach. If the water doesn”t wear you out, there”s more hiking to be done here as well.
Surfer at Pacific City, Oregon. Photo by Tyson Gillard.If post-surfing brews are your thing, Pacific City is the place to be. With Pelican Brewing Company located right next to the beach, you don”t even have to strip your wetsuit off to grab a cold beer after a long session in the water (the waitstaff would probably appreciate it if you did, though). In the winter this break can see waves that crest 12 feet as swells break over the reef. There are multiple options for surfers here. Cape Kiwanda makes nice right-hand waves off the southern end. A much larger beach break further to the south known as Gas Chambers gets hollow at times, as well. Beginners would do better to keep the the fun easy beach break in front of the parking lot for the safest outing. Unfortunately, as motor vehicles are permitted on the beach, the whole strand can feel like a parking lot on busy summer weekends.
Early morning light at Gleneden Beach. Photo by Tyson Gillard.South of Lincoln City, Gleneden Beach State Recreation Site offers a wide sandy beach that”s perfect for those seeking an introduction to surfing. With no access fees of any sort, this one is a beach bum”s paradise. You can scout the water and get a feel for the waves while drinking your early morning coffee at one of the picnic tables on the bluff overlooking the water. Depending on the day, the surf can range from small to fairly large in size. Know your abilities and stay within the surf that matches them. Sea lions and seals are not uncommon sights in these waters as well, so keep an eye out for them while in the lineup.
Fogarty Creek State Recreation Site
Fogarty Creek State Recreation Site. Photo courtesy of Tyson Gillard.Situated on Highway 101 between Lincoln City and Depoe Bay, this spot makes for good whale watching during migration season, and it provides decent surf. Both north and south entrances are located on the east side of the highway. With wooden footbridges leading down to the coastline, rocky cliffs, and numerous tide pools, this is an excellent place with lots of activities and gorgeous scenery on offer. For drizzly winter outings, a covered picnic shelter is available as well. Alder, western hemlock, and Sitka spruce trees line the shores and attract numerous birds to the area. The beach area is smaller than others on this list, so when it”s crowded…it”s really crowded.
Otter Rock + Devil”s Punch Bowl State Natural Area
Looking south toward Beverly Beach. Photo courtesy of Tyson Gillard.Otter Rock and Devil”s Punch Bowl can be found between Depoe Bay and Yaquina Head along the southern Oregon coast. To gain access to the best surfing found at the north end of Beverly Beach, park your car in one of the parking lots near C Street and access the water by way of a wooden staircase located on the south side of 1st Street between B and C Streets. Gray whales can also be seen here during their two major migrations of late December through early January and mid-March through early April. This beach is a good spot for longboards and beginners with enough room for both to catch waves. Be aware of rip currents, particularly in the winter and early spring.
Safety and Etiquette
While surfing can be a lot of fun, it”s also important to stay safe. Read the surf reports (to learn how), check the weather and the tides before you go. Be prepared with the right gear for your trip. In the cold waters of the Pacific here, a 4/3mm wetsuit is a must, as are booties…and often a hood. If you find yourself getting too cold, go in and warm up. The waves will wait. For newer surfers it can be helpful to bone up on surf etiquette. As always, try to leave the beach a little better than you found it and Leave No Trace.