Surfing Oregon: A Guide For New & Experienced Surfers
The rugged Oregon coast is certainly not made for the average surfer.
Cold waters and large powerful waves line the coastline of Oregon.
The coast is teeming with life— rainforests line the rocky cliffs and in the ocean, great white sharks inhabit the ice cold water.
However, there are crews of surfers in the beaver state who conquer its unique waves. This has led to quite a bit of localism and protection of secret spots.
The coast is filled with numerous heavy beach breaks.
There are quite a few spots not accessible by a dirt road or short walk but for this article we’ll go over some of Oregon’s most well known, safest, and accessible spots.
What’s So Special About Surfing in Oregon?
Waves in Oregon
The waves in Oregon are primarily beach breaks with pretty unpredictable sandbars.
During the winter the waves can get scary big.
Some spots around the central coast near Lincoln City can get tow-in big.
The size isn’t the only concern during the winter, water temperatures drop to frigid temperatures.
The wind can also be a problem especially during the spring and during the summer the coast is lined with thick layers of fog.
Fall is usually the best time of year to surf in Oregon. There are quite a few hazards when navigating the ocean via surfboard in Oregon as well. Huge logs and rocky bottom pose a decent threat to surfers along the coast.
The Surf Culture in Oregon
A nice change of pace compared to its neighbor California, Oregon doesn’t have much localism aside from a few really good breaks.
There are secret spots that are really only known by locals and that are extremely difficult to get to.
Some surfers and photographers have experienced verbal abuse at some of Oregon’s best breaks.
On top of that, if you’re looking for an escape from the overcrowded surf of its neighboring state California, Oregon is the place to go.
Most spots will be relatively empty aside from a few of Oregon’s state beach parks.
There are several beach towns along the coast that are very welcoming to surfers.
Equipment Needed When Surfing in Oregon
Compared to the rest of the west coast, Oregon has some of the coldest waters you might encounter in the US. Water temperatures average around the low 50s most of the year.
Most surfers wear a 5-7mm wetsuit with a hood during the winter and 3-4 mm wetsuit during the spring and summer.
Then of course extra gear like booties and gloves are necessary to protect you from the ice cold water.
On top of that, a warm jug of water in your car is another great way to thaw off after a chilly session.
The bottom line— prepare for some of the coldest water temperatures you’ll ever touch in Oregon.
The 5 Best Surf Spots in Oregon
Arguably one of the best waves in the state, Seaside is also one of the most localized on this list. It's heavily protected by the locals but it is practically a perfect wave.
Primarily a left, Seaside is anything but kind to the average surfer. This point break is located on the northern coast and can get extremely good on the right day.
If you can get invited out the water by a semi-friendly local, the wave has a rough takeoff, is very steep and powerful.
During the winter, Seaside is only reserved for intermediate and advanced surfers and is capable of humbling even the best surfers.
A friendlier and more inviting wave on the northern coast of Oregon, Short Sands is perfect for surfers of all abilities.
Short Sands or Shorty’s is a beach break located in Tillamook County that usually provides wave riders with something to surf year round.
Compared to other spots in Oregon, the local vibe is much lighter here.
The wave really isn’t anything special but since it's located in a cove, it's a perfect place to dodge some of those howling Oregon winds. It's also about a half mile walk to the beach so come prepared with proper footwear.
Summers get pretty crowded and winters like most Oregon can be too stormy and big to surf.
If Seaside is the best wave then Otter Rock is probably the most popular and crowded wave of Oregon’s central coast.
Located in Lincoln County, Otter Rock is a popular tourist destination and during the summer it can get fairly crowded.
Since this spot is so popular there is little to no localism.
Otter Rock is a great place to learn how to surf or to show off your cross stepping on a longboard. Again since this wave is more of a beginner wave, expect slow mushy rollers.
Like Short Sands, this wave is also very consistent and has something to surf year round.
Also on the central coast, Lincoln City is a quiet beach town with a solid beach break. Lincoln City is one long beach so there are multiple peaks to choose from.
The sandbar and million other factors like wind and water temperature make this wave pretty unpredictable.
Summer is usually best because of the warmth and the waves remain a decent size. Winter is usually huge and the outside reef is really the only surfable part of the beach.
Be prepared to get caught inside and paddle on a treadmill.
This wave should only be navigated by intermediate and advanced surfers and ones familiar with the funky sandbars.
On the southern coast of Oregon is Coos Bay which has something for everyone.
The main beach on this stretch of coast is Bastendorff Beach.
Bastendorff is probably the best spot for beginners.
Other than that, there are multiple peaks and coves along Coos Bay to surf that are most likely going to be empty.
The localism here isn’t bad at all compared to some other spots along the coast.
Winds have the potential to ruin the waves here much like the rest of the coastline.
There are also some waves here that are reserved for advanced surfers like Simpson’s Reef, a steep right.
What To Do In Oregon When the Waves Are Flat
Oregon is a beautiful state with plenty to do besides surfing.
The rugged coastline is perfect for sightseeing.
A coastal hike or drive in Lincoln City or any central or north coast beach town is a great way to experience Oregon’s untamed wilderness.
Then if you prefer the city, inland is Oregon’s urban hub, Portland.
Here you can watch a Trailblazers game or tour the city for one of its bookstores like Powell’s Books.
Portland also has a great food scene so if you’re looking for a place to score some good food look no further than Portland.
If it's too cold to surf, maybe consider hitting the slopes to ski or snowboard at one of Oregon’s ski resorts. Mount Bachelor is one of Oregon’s premiere ski resorts.
Surfing in Oregon
Surfing in Oregon is certainly not for everyone. It might be one of the hardest places on the west coast to pick up surfing due to its heavy beach breaks, ice cold and sharky waters. However, there are spots that are great for learning especially during the summers. Hopefully, you were able to get a baring for the beaver states rocky coastline and the surfers that inhabit it.