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  • Writer's pictureTed Emes

Chasing The Wind: The Oregon Coast


Teenager catching small waves
Surfing Bastendorff Beach, Oregon

Kitesurfing adventure travel through Instagram stories gives you a world of glamorous, care-free, adrenaline filled fun. However, the reality of kitesurfing road trips is that you do spend a solid amount of time either jammed up in traffic or waiting for the wind while eating cheap grocery store ramen noodles. This season I really wanted to foster a love for kitesurfing travel with my son Finn and I sold him on the idea of a coastal road trip through Oregon to chase epic kitesurfing conditions. My sales pitch and reality could not have been further apart.


The Plan


The idea of the trip was very simple involving two characters: Me, a middle-aged, mediocre kitesurfing dad with plenty of "back in my day" glory stories; and Finn my my teenage son with the "yeah I heard that one already" charm, who go chase the wind along the Oregon coast in a well seasoned 2005 Pontiac Vibe. I was already down in California (CA) kitesurfing at Sherman Island and Waddell Creek, so Finn would catch a flight to San Francisco and we would then explore kitesurfing spots along the Oregon Hwy 101. With our fingers crossed, we set out from Pescadero, CA and drove north to chase the spring frontal winds and snag some oceanside sessions along the postcard picture worthy coastline. From the rolling sand dunes of the south coast, all the way up to the raw forests of the north coast, we had visions of kitesurfing stoke and rich tales to take to the family back home.


The Reality


Unfortunately, like some rolls of the proverbial 'wind' dice, we came up short.


Despite my begging, pleading and negotiating with the iKitesurf wind app, not a puff of real wind showed up. Think about that. Somehow we drove over 1300 kilometers (802 Miles) and never found anything over 10 knots of wind. Well, sometimes you’re on a kiting trip and sometimes you’re on a wind safari with your kiting gear. I had to switch modes fast or Finn will forever look at me with suspicion while I say "wanna come with me on a kitesurfing trip?" Thankfully, Finn has an adventurous spirit and I also packed my 7’6” funboard surfboard, so it was time to ditch the old plan and just fly by the seat of our pants.


The Oregon Coast--Gold Beach

Campfire in Gold Beach Oregon
Campfire Warmth

After 12 hrs of driving through central and northern California with no air conditioning, we settled into a yurt at the Oceanside RV Park. In the pre-dawn dark of our first morning, with no wind in the forecast, I grabbed my phone and hooked into Surfline, discovering that a surf spot was only 100m away from our yurt site. Surfline's description was simple: the waves will be heavy and there are strong currents, so go easy and play it safe. Certainly not a beginner spot but there was a strong appeal to just walk to a surf spot after spending the previous day driving. After some mandatory morning hot chocolate and coffee, we donned our wetsuits, grabbed the surfing gear and walked down to the Gold Beach jetty nodding 'good morning' to the beach watchers, walkers and other surfers along the path.


To be clear, I'm not a 'surfer' despite having surfed in many different countries, but I do have plenty of ocean experience. After watching the locals work the waves breaking off the jetty, I decided this was not the place to develop some of Finn's ocean skill, so we stuck close to the shore among the reforming soft foamy waves. Finn caught a nice little wave that tossed and rolled him right up the black pebble beach. Never mind the wind, the look of shock on his face and the contradicting double thumbs up at that moment was priceless. I breathed a huge sigh of relief that we found fun and adventure in our first couple of days.


Floras Lake, Oregon

Kitesurfer walking lines
Start of Season Gear Check

After arriving at our campsite at Boice-Cope Park, it became obvious why wind chasers would come to Floras Lake, Oregon. The campground is right by the water and I love places like this because of the old school nature of simply walking your cup of coffee down to the water's edge to check on the wind regardless of the time of day. No need for apps or weather reports and if you see decent white caps on the water, you simply decide how much sail power you want to handle. I was so excited for Finn to session this flatwater spot and jump to his heart's content.

By mid morning the grey clouded sky shifted to a fresh spring like sunny blue, so the wind will show up right?


Well, yes and no.


The wind tepidly arrived but the locals advised that it was blowing in the wrong direction. Last season, Finn achieved independence as a kitesurfer thanks to the great instruction he received from Squamish Watersports and Elevation Kiteboarding. Despite his new found freedom, he’s still a teenage grommet and developing his sailing skills. Instead of trying to put together a slog fest, we used the light wind and ankle deep water to practice some key skills such as kite launching, landing and light wind kite re-launching off the water.


Now, the day can't end without some type of risk taking, so we got the brilliant idea of making pan fried potatoes over a campfire. After burning through two cords of wood, one bottle of oil and surviving the curious inquiries of the camp host, we finished a nice little meal without having injured our hands or the roof of our mouths. I was relieved when Finn mentioned to me that it was worth going through his equipment before his first session of the season as he was feeling a little nervous about getting back onto the water on his own.


So far so good at stop number two but we needed an ocean day to satisfy our adventure appetite. I shook my phone like it was a fortune telling eight ball and Bastendorff Beach Park was revealed as the lucky answer. This beach is so wide your eyes can't take it all in at once, plus there are endless small sandbar breaks accessible to beginner surfers like Finn and 'play' surfers like myself. We skim boarded, boogie boarded and surfed several sessions making the most of the time we had in the area. Top if off with some pub lunches in Coos Bay and it made for some great fun.


Travel luck prevailed.


The Oregon Coast--Cannon Beach

Standing by the beach in Cannon Beach, Oregon
Oregon Coast Surf Sessions

Next stop on our coastal kitesurfing expedition--Fort Stevens, Oregon. I really wanted to kitesurf this spot as I was feeling slightly nervous that the lack of wind would sink Finn's interest in kitesurfing travel once and for all. Besides, I was dreaming of having a wave sailing spot that has camping accommodations and does not require me to add a ferry cost for access. With a quick stop in Coos Bay for some baked goods and a hand tremor inducing coffee for me, we hit the 101 and drove north.


To accompany our travels, the fortune telling forecast made me believe that we would have epic driving views of the coast but the real weather pretty much socked in everything with a full day of rain and fog. Finn had a good book, so he just tucked into it as I bled off the distance while repeatedly checking the weather forecast for Fort Stevens. After pulling into Cannon Beach, Oregon for a stretch break, the rain started dumping again and my brain's pink toe caught the edge to the proverbial door frame. Time to consult the Eight Ball again.


With my phone in hand and I 'Expedia'ed' our way into a cozy little cabin with beach access. I was done with driving, packing/unpacking and decided that if the wind would not grace our presence, two days of multiple surf sessions just down the street was going to be the capstone to our little adventure. It did not disappoint. The sun swept the clouds to the side and we surfed together switching between the surfboard and the boogie board making it a great time on the water together.


One Last Thought


Looking back, I'm very grateful how this adventure turned out and to see it as a kitesurfing disaster trip would take away everything that was good about the journey. I can't help but think that the key to the Oregon coast is just to keep searching it. That means more years of planning, forecasting and rolling the dice with some wind travel buddies. If you tap into resources like iKitesurf, the list of kitesurfing locations in the Pacific Northwest is extensive and the best thing is that this is only a fraction of what else is available for surfing, hiking, paddle boarding, camping and local breweries. My son Finn and I set out on a planned kitesurfing trip but we found different spots to play for different reasons creating vivid memories to share.


To me, that's the whole point of why we do this...grab your family and your friends and go chase the wind, it's an adventure.

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