By Clayton Truscott - ex PE local
Living in Portland has forced me to reevaluate how I measure the distance of things.
For example, I drive from Oregon to Washington 5 days a week, where I work in a different state with different tax codes, regulations and laws. It’s only 22 kilometers, but the distance is significant.
At the same time, surfing in Oregon has forced me to be prepared, which has not historically been my strong suit.
The closest thing to a ‘local break’ I’ve got is 1 hour and 35 minutes away, about as far as the drive from P.E. to Joubertina, where I did my driver’s license 15 years ago after failing it twice in Humansdorp.
I’m still not a great driver, but I like driving.
I surfed today.
This morning, I packed the car at 5 a.m.
There was a cruel wind brushing leaves down Jarrett Street and ice on the lawn outside my house. I assessed my gear and tried to figure out what was missing. Board, suit, leash, fins, booties, fin key, water, food, towels (plural), extra contact lenses, extra jersey, extra socks.
It was all there, but something felt absent. Something important.
I headed across the Fremont Bridge, towards the coastal freeway, with Downtown Portland on one side and the industrial railway yard on the other. The moon cut a smile into the sky above me, while the city lights shimmered across the Willamette River. In the distance, Mount Hood etched its profile into the red dawn, showing off its striking, snowcapped peak that always looks photoshopped onto the horizon.
In some ways, Portland reminds me of Port Elizabeth, how the industrial roots overlap current development, which seems to be a never-ending process. The city is in constant transition, preserving the old while forging ahead.
It’s important to find these common threads when you’re living in another country. That’s where surfing has been a lifeline over the last four years, adding familiarity to all the new routines and adjustments.
The first time I surfed in Oregon was in October last year, at a spot called the Cove in Seaside, a touristy hamlet 15 minutes north of Cannon Beach (which ballies might recognize from The Goonies).
It’s mostly a longboarding wave that gets really crowded when it’s good and pretty hollow with the right swell angle.
This particular day was about one and a half feet and tormented by a howling cross-shore that would have made my kiteboarding friends lose themselves. The water was brown and clumps of seaweed draped the rocky shoreline. There were three other people out, all wearing hoods, gloves, and boots. That is what being prepared for 12 degree water looks like.
I had 4/3, no booties, no hoodie, and no clue.
It was a complete change from Ocean Beach, San Diego, where Natalie and I had been living for 2 years before moving up here. One of my local breaks there was a playful spot called Avalanche, which looks nothing like its Port Elizabethan namesake.
On any given day, there’d be 20-30 people out, scattered across the rippable peaks that drain off a rock jetty. In the teeth of winter it was still about 18 degrees in the water. It was an amazing neighborhood that really holds a special place in my heart (I recently wrote a collection of stories about it.)
Compared to San Diego, the Oregon coast is an entirely different animal.
This stretch of the Pacific Northwest is characterized by harsh weather and rugged monoliths that poke out of the water like fossilized dinosaurs, paused in motion.
The constant rain makes everything green, slick and beautiful. Beyond the coast, you can hike, rock climb, snowboard, and explore a new trail or park every day of the year, and still feel like you’re only scratching the surface. Because of this, Portland is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts and weirdos who like the rain.
I love it here.
But the Oregon coast is serious.
Cape Lookout is my favorite place in Oregon. It’s about 10 minutes away from Cape Kiwanda, which is another fun beach break and point. A really cool South African man, Gary Gregg (from Durban), has a surf shop there (Moment Surf Shop), right opposite break. It’s a bit further driving there, but when the wind is light and there’s a sniff of west in the swell.
It’s a deep stretch of the Pacific that captures a lot of swell and funnels it into some incredible setups. There are too many unnamed nooks with solid, top-quality waves that people don’t surf (yet). This winter, my weekends were plagued by days where I simply didn’t have the equipment, the fitness, or the scones to head out and braves 15 foot walls of grey ice. I mind-surfed the hell out of it, if that counts for anything.
It also happens to be located on the Pacific Ring of Fire. There are tsunami evacuation route signs dotted along the narrow highways, which give you a nice apocalyptic reminder of the danger that lurks beyond the rips, the sharks, and the freezing water.
Whilst driving here, between stopping to admire another empty lineup, you’re always creating a roadmap to higher ground, making sure everyone knows what to do if the Big One strikes.
Seaside Cove is about a kilometer down the road from Oregon’s best point, Seaside Point, a punchy left that unloads across a shallow reef. It’s intense, hollow, and incredibly localized. To a point of a lunacy.
This is yet another small distance that represents a big change.
A few people have told me different horror stories that range from having their tires slashed to witnessing fistfights in the water, to seeing deranged locals casting headless chickens into the water to scare people away.
I experienced a taste of this when I asked a group of guys watching the point what the tide was doing, and was told that it was none of my fucking business.
I knew the tide was dropping; I just wanted to make conversation.
With the exception of the incident at the point, surfers in Northern Oregon are incredibly friendly, helpful, and forthcoming. There’s a growing surf community in Portland, along with a handful of board shapers and surf shops. I think it’s accepted that everyone willing to brave the conditions deserves respect. The vibe in the water is friendly and chilled, so long as you remember your manners.
Anyways, this morning I arrived at the Short Sands parking lot just after 7 and was relieved not to be the first car there.
To get to the beach, you take a 10 minute hike through an old growth forest. It’s a mesmerizing little trek, marked by mushrooms the size of couch cousins growing on tree trunks as large as houses. The forest trail ends where the sand begins, creating a natural amphitheatre of pine trees around the bay.
There were already a handful of people out and others getting ready on the beach.
There are three main peaks; a left that runs off the south wall, a split-peak in the middle, and a right-hand point that hugs the north on the north side of the bay. It’s the most popular spot around here and almost-always fun.
This particular was a fun, but challenging 4-5 feet. It had been massive all week and although the swell had dropped, there was still plenty of energy in the water. The long paddle out was a mini-marathon and every duck dive felt like getting slapped by a frozen salmon fillet.
After an hour, I came in for a bit of brekkie and was invited to stand around a fire someone had started on the beach.
I managed 3 sessions before my arms and legs stopped cooperating. Packing up and leaving to drive back home is always a bitter-sweet point in the day, but part of what makes this coastline so special is its remoteness.
I never did figure out what was missing. It was probably nothing.
I always want to be a thousand places at the same time, so it always feels like I’m missing something.
I often miss the simplicity of a session at Humewood, parking at Saddles and running down the rocky steps behind Happy Valley. Or pulling up at the harbor above Fence, and paddling out to 20 faces I know by name. Or shooting the shit with people at Pipe, while trying to figure out if a drive to the reserve is worth it.
Those are nice things to think about.
The waves I get here and memories are what sustain from week to week when I’m missing the ocean. And the same thing applies to P.E. and St. Francis (where my folks live full-time now), when I go home for visits.
No matter what you’re doing, time is always precious.
With a series of huge fronts smashing the coast over the next week, and a tropical cyclone off east Africa, there's never been a better time to chase waves up both the east and west coasts of Africa.
Little known spots from Kenya , through Tanzania up into Somalia will have firing right, and all the left points from Angola into Congo and Gabon will be going off their pips. A few lil islands off the coast under the bulge will also be pumping. And then there's the right sand points of Ghana....
The much-hyped purple blob didn't deliver. Purple wind we got. Purple waves? Nup. Sure, there was a bit of swell, but nothing like anyone had expected after what the charts led us to believe. But at least there were some waves about after the wind backed off, and it certainly was the best day of the week - which wasn't hard to achieve seeing as it'd been flat in the bay all week anyhow. Beggars can't be choosers.
If you were patient and nabbed the right spot at the right tide there were a few nuggets about. Saw Greg Saunders hook a screamer from Chomp Rock all the way through to Millers.
JBay and surrounds picked up more swell, but also not in the purple-people-eater category either. Cape Town did klap it though, with reports of big waves at Dungeons, Crayfish Factory and down the drag at Bayview in Hermanus.
Whilst there was much hype at home about the impending swell, PE local Anthony Adler was charging giants over in the Ments. On his annual pilgrimage to Kandui, Ant's first wave out at Bank Vaults didn't work out too well - getting lip-launched then pummeled. No prob for Ant, he just saddled straight back up, and his next wave the Kandui surf guide reckons was the biggest wave of the year so far. PE ballies charge! Not bad for 62 years young.
Lots of motion in the ocean at the moment. Tropical cyclone Fantala just made history as the strongest-known storm in the Indian Ocean. The mighty tempest spun itself up to 150 knots (280 km/h) on Monday - a Category 5 hurricane. Must have been plenty of right points all the along the east coast of Africa firing off their pips. Surf in Somalia anyone!?
The locals in Plett were restless this week. Bunch of ballies surf-ski'ing at Robberg this morning near Wreck Beach, and one ou's ski got smashed from behind by a shark. Knocked the poor dude outta his ski, and then the ski sank cos the back was bitten off. Guy had to hang on to his mates ski for a lift back to shore. Eish.
Shot to the Beach Manager Fernando Caine for getting the bushes on top of the dunes at Millers cut down. Plenty of dodgy dudes had taken up residence along the top of the dunes, no doubt contributing to the increase in petty crime in the area. So hopefully your cabbie should be safer at Millers carpark again now that the skollies have nowhere to hide.
Some of the local pro surfing crew are sunning themselves in Martinique - nup, not the marina near Jbay - the lekker lil island in the French West Indies. Matt, Dylan and Dale competed in the Martinique Surf Pro
Men's Qualifying Series #17, but unfortunately didn't make it past Rd 4. But hey, what's not to like about lurking in the Caribbean!?
The NMMU Madibaz surf club came up with a kiff new pop-up comp contest to get everyone frothing to hit the water. They held an hour long expression session, with prizes being awarded for Best wave, Best maneuver, Kook of the day and Stylemaster. The R20 entry fee scored you a free bar of wax and a beer - double whammy! So if you're a student at NMMU and surf, keep your eye's peeled for the next pop-up, everyone welcome.
Props to Keala Kennelly for making history by winning the 2016 WSL Big Wave Awards Tube Ride of the Year for her black hole at Chopes. First time a chick has won it. #noballsneeded
The ou's made the mission this weekend to get down to Mossel Bay for the SA Longboard Champs being held there this week. The McGregor family from Port Alfred displayed some pretty impressive packing skills to fit 2 bro's, a zillion surfboards, and other assorted necessities into their cabbie for the trip.
Things looking pretty fun for the coming week, charts are showing a few bumps. Here's hoping they don't disappear like the purple blob did.
The week started off with a bang. Really good waves on Monday, out west was cranking and even the bay had some decent one's. Warm water, light winds, could be worse ways to spend the day. Round the corner had some solid stuff as well.
Surf frothness does have it's downsides though. Amy Van Niekerk bolted down to the beach after work for a surf, and in her eagerness to get out there before the sun set, didn't pay quite the close attention required when positioning her board in the carpark next to her car - cos a mullet managed to drive over it and turn her thruster into a side single fin. Eina!!
Pretty awesome sunset on Monday evening thanks to a fire out near Walker Drive billowing some smoke into the sky. The sun was sinking behind it, turning it into a glowing fireball and throwing out some incredible light onto the dusk wave faces. One of those times you wish you had a pair of Google Glasses on to take some snaps.
From flames to furnace. Billabong have just released their new winter wetsuits, which include the Billabong Furnace Carbon Pro. Besides being lank warm and stretchy, they are also sporting a new zipperless chest closure system.
Richard Arderne sent me a classic old shot of himself as a gremmie at Millers back in the 60's. Gotto love the interesting board shape, homemade leash complete with hankie for a leash cuff, and the ill-fitting wettie. To say surf equipment has improved exponentially over the last 50 years would be an understatement...
Seabass took the win at Margaret River last week, in some solid surf. He beat Julian Wilson in the final to claim his maiden WSL win. One happy chappy. It also means the leader board for the WSL looks very different to previous years - the only "usual suspect" there is Parko at 5. Topping it is Wilko, then Seabass, Italo, Brother then Parko.
The next 5 surfers to crack an invite to the JBU Supertrial presented by RVCA have been announced. Ricky Basnett, Matthew John McGillivray, Dylan Lightfoot, Davey van Zyl and Shaun Holmes will be among those having a stab at hooking a slot into the JBay Open. Good to see the locals getting some slots. Hopefully the organisers give PE's Dylan Stone a slot too, cos he's pretty damn good out there.
Grab the latest copy of Boardtalk from a store near you. Warwick at Coffee's Up also has in stock. It's packed with R150 of free vouchers, and plenty of local surf action and news.
Super stoked to finally have got round to buying a piece of art from JBay's Stephen van der Walt (aka Stevo). His lil gallery in the Core Surf Shop is packed with a selection of brightly coloured modern wavescapes. Now just gotto suss out my picture-hanging skills.....
Start em young. Bruce Iron's lil guy already looks to have the grab rail game of daddy down pat. Just 4 years old, can't even swim yet, but looking confident as anything on that board.
Stanley Badger is doing some board magic these days, turning beaten up, yellowed out old sticks into gleaming new (almost) freshies. If you have some old sleds in need of some love, Stan's your man.
Millers local Brett Hoppe found a cool bottle of Vino whilst on a Cape Town mission last week. Turns out not only is it a sweet right point, it's also a tasty Merlot. Made by Kleine Parys Vineyards world renowned winemaker Kosie Möller, it has spicy, smoky aromas with gentle well-integrated tannins on the palate and a soft delicate finish. You wonder who the ou's are that sit in a dark lil room somewhere and come up with all the kak they write on the back of wine bottles....
Calling all skateboarders - make a plan to hitch a lift up to Cape Town for the Element Make it Count event. Cos who wouldn't want to stand a chance of winning a skate trip to Barcelona!!
Staying on the subject of cool events, Sunday sees a mass pop-up instameet taking place. The 'Colour the City’ event is a creative instameet where people can come together, socialize and explore the city. The plan is to mission the streets together, taking photographs of the city and culture with the aim to ‘Colour the City’, attendees are encouraged to bring along any colourful props, their smiles and friends. Starts at the Donkin at 3.30pm.
The week had started well, then went into the doldrums midweek, only to have Sunday throw out some good waves again. You must know it was half OK if the ou's were raving about a surf at Pipe...
Even better cos the forecast east didn't really show up as predicted, with winds staying light and glassy most of the day.
Despite some fun waves out front, this is where I would rather have been. One of our fave spots in the Maldives looking like the berries on Sunday. What makes it worse is that had planned a trip to be there right now, but was veto'd by "management" thanks to the kak exchange rate. #ZumamustfallSOIcansurf
Charts looking very promising for next weekend, with some solid long period swell meant to arrive. Here's hoping no major downgrades during the wind, and the winds don't go funky...
Not much happening in the bay cos of funky winds all week. Which meant ou's did a bit of wild-side tripping to get wet.
Kevin, Etienne, Jorg and Tony were grabbing a sneaky lunch-time surf at Beachview when they had a pretty close visit from a finned friend. Martin Hartslief was suiting up in the carpark and saw a decent-sized grey suit swim right up to the guys and then decide they didn't look like part of the food chain, so veered off and left them alone. ET had spotted it at the same time Martin did and gave the call for the ou's to baleka in. Poor Kev missed the wave and got stuck out there on his ace, but still made it in safely, although no doubt with the Jaws theme-music playing loudly in his ears!
Ari Kraak was flying his chopper to PE the next day and spotted this boytjie just off the backline at Sea View. Mighta been the same dude. Like it or not, the locals are always out there, and luckily we aren't really on the menu unless they get quizzy.
Taj Burrow announced his retirement from the World Tour at the Margies Pro. After 18 years of wearing comp jerseys the Billabong rider has decided it might be fun to go and surf without getting judged. He'll be sorely missed, as is one of the most stylish surfers about. You don't get to second spot on the tour twice (1999 and 2007) without being pretty adept on a surfboard.
A note for the diary - the 60th Anniversary of the Summerstrand Surf Lifesaving Club will be celebrated over the weekend of the 20 & 21st May 2016. This weekend is a week following the Old Grey Reunion weekend so for those of you who were at Grey, please make it a double celebration. Keep up to date with what's happening here:
A bit of summer action this week thanks to the persistent onshore winds - plenty of blue bottles made their way inshore to sting the cr*p outta anyone taking a dip or getting wet on their boards. Not often they pitch up after the summer months, but with seasonal winds not being as predictable as in the past, and the possibility of consistent easterlies still prevailing for the next while, expect to see a few more of these guys about.
Ex-Pipe local Patrick Maguire sadly passed away on Tuesday following a fatal motobike accident in Bath, UK. He was a regular at Pipe, Main Rights, Millers and Tubes (JBay). There will be a farewell surf out for Patrick sometime in the next 2 weeks depending on his ashes arrival from the UK. Will give a head's up once the date is confirmed, and all are welcome to join in saying farewell to a lekker ou.
Still digging about into PE surf history and this classic shot of King's Beach turned up, taken from the slip road that the hawkers use right next to MacArthur Baths. Bruce Matthew, who took the shot, recalls how on spring tides the waves used to wash right up onto the road.
Nearly 50 years later King's Beach is still the spot to snap photo's, here's a kiff one of logger Jamie Morris by Brad Peens. Pity the surf wasn't cooperating so that there was a lekker peeler running off in the background. But then am guessing Jamie wouldn't have been standing around posing for a pic, he'd have been out in the water.
It was the annual Ironman weekend, which saw plenty of peeps take their shot at the 4k swim, 180k ride and 42k run. Road closures for the event meant it was pretty tricky to get to the beach, and unfortunately unlike previous years there wasn't much in the way of waves to make the effort worth while. Lekker day and warm water, but wonky winds didn't do any favours to the swell that was running.
Not a helluva lot on the charts for the week, so might entail a visit to the skatepark in order to get your glide on.
But looking ahead to when the winter storms start bashing the coast Billabong have launched a rad comp where you and a mate can win a day at Dungeons, checking out all the action from the safety of the channel. The adrenaline without the prospect of copping a 20ft'r on the head! Win win situation! Plus some kiff Billabong Adventure Division gear as well. Scoot along to the Billabong website to enter.
Another Monday public holiday filled with waves. Unfortunately for those who didn't make the drive west, it was also filled with a bit too much wind to start with, and by the time the wind abated, so had the swell. Avo's had some crankers if you didn't mind the chop.
Managed to catch a few peeps out with an April Fool's photoshop of one of Dean Cothill's rad drone shots of Cape Recife. Flipped an aerial shot of G-Land over and popped it onto the pic. Ironically the top of Cape Recife does actually have a really good wave on it's day. It just not ridden often thanks to being flipping far out, and you sit out there feeling very much part of the food chain.
When researching the PE Surf History article, every old-timer I spoke to fondly remembered lots of sessions out at the top of the point - it was a popular spot back in the day. Just required plenty of commitment though, as in the pre-leash days it was a looong and lonely swim back in to fetch your board if you wiped out!
The WSL reckons the surfers, sorry athletes, are like soccer players now. Just launched the full range of jerseys on their online store, which you can buy for the hefty sum of $80 (R1200). It's a bit of weird concept, cos unlike soccer or rugby where a player is known by his number - it's not quite the same for surfers - despite each now having their unique number assigned. Anything to make a buck these days. Lucky the news was announced 2 days before April Fool's, else it would have been a legitimate joke.
The week saw John Scheepers, aka CarPark John, celebrate his 69th birthday. Shot to the Beershack, who threw a lil impromptu gathering for John, laying on some beer and cake. Craig Cuff was the first ou to try the beer + cake combo, and declared that a pint of CarPark Pale Ale went down well with caramel filled chocolate cake.
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A hospitalized Sunny Garcia was left in a neck brace in a photo from his newest Instagram post after another driver—who was reportedly texting—crashed head-on into the former world champion and six-time Triple Crown winner on Friday. Garcia appears to be in fine condition, though he wrote an understandably frustrated message in which he made clear that the accident is not an April Fool’s joke.
Pretty sore right now thanks to a guy speeding and texting while driving hitting me head on but I’m living so can’t complain:) thanks @natedorman and @stonegarcia for taking care of everything after I got taken away in the ambulance #couldbeworst #noitsnotajoke #luckytobealive #fucktextingwhiledriving
CYOH held their first Surf Off Series of 2016 at Loch Ness over the weekend. Plenty of great surfing, good vibes and kiff prizes. You can check out all the shots from the comp here http://www.millerslocal.co.za/comp-news/cyoh-surf-off-12
JBay spray-guru Stephen van der Watt not only does some amazing board art, but has also taken to canvas as well. If you'd like to get your hands on some uniquely local Jbay surf paintings, then Stevo's your man. Go check out his work at the Core Surf Shop in Jbay.
Anyone coming down to the beachfront will have noticed things are getting ready for the Ironman this coming weekend. Isuzu is running a kiff initiative together with Ironman 4 the Kidz, called #ITSAEMPTYTRUCK - Let's fill it with Books! You can donate previously loved books, which will then be redistributed to the various children's charities throughout the Eastern Cape that are sponsored by Ironman 4 the Kids. Empower the kids of IRONMAN 4 the Kidz South Africa through the power of education. Donate your old books at the Isuzu Trucks #ITSAEMPTYTRUCK collection boxes.
Boxes can be found at Summerbreeze Spar Summerstrand, Summerstrand Shopping Centre, Waterfront Spar, Algoa FM, Boardwalk Hotel, The Bridge Shopping Centre, 6th Ave Shopping centre Walmer, Die Burger William Moffet, Newton Park library, Vodacom Cape Rd, Grey and Collegiate High Schools, Beach Hotel, City Lodge and more. Keep up to date with new collection points added via https://www.facebook.com/ITSAEMPTYTRUCK/
You know the saying that there's gold at the end of the rainbow? Well, Grant Beck's got a new one - there's surf at the end of the sunbeam! He was doing some filming with Dylan Lightfoot at Jbay during the week and captured this rad shot.
The Shark Rock pier must be one of PE's most snapped landmarks, so it's always cool to see a unique angle on it. Richard Saunders got a kiff shot of it looking like something outta Star Wars.
So that's the wrap for the week - signing off with this kiff shot from EL's Bruce Viaene.
Looks like a good week to get some work done, as min swell and some funky winds.