ack in my OG country, there’s a long tradition of jumping in the sea in the depths of winter: from the Forty Foot Christmas Day swim to sundry ring-in-the-new-year leaps into major shrink-your-appendages temperatures. But given my (entirely logical) dislike of the cold, I never joined in. When I got to Oregon, I took, as they say in Ireland, a figary and, in the grand tradition of immigrants who revere behaviors they would have scoffed at if they’d stayed put, what I wouldn’t do there I was suddenly game for here. So I resolved to re-create the Irish winter plunge on the glorious Oregon coast.
Now every year on January 1, my friend Julia and I (and once, my daughter, who thought better of ever repeating it) find a beach—any stretch of sand with access to the petrifying Pacific will do—and we run into the water. (Hat tip to Manzanita’s dune-to-sea run as our most frequented jumping-off point, though Oceanside and Rockaway have had their moments.) The rule is you have to get wet at least up to your neck. The rule is we do it together. The rule is we begin the year clean cold and ready to start fresh.
We have run across sparklingly icy sand, losing feeling in our feet before we even put a toe in the water. We’ve been propelled by aggressive wind gusts, startled by rolling logs on a roiling sea, applauded by strangers, and encouraged by a trusty, towel-toting crew of dry, shore-planted friends. And through it all, I’ve fallen neck-deep in love with the Oregon coast, its fuzzy skies and soft, sweeping stretches, its forest-topped cliffs and obdurate iron rocks, its wild, baptismal beauty.
Let’s face it, though: all of the above has an extra shine in summer, when you get breathtaking blue-sky views as you wind along US 101, sun-kissed sands turn shimmery gold, and plunging into the Pacific becomes a rite of pleasure, not just of passage. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together all the best jumping off points in our definitive guide to the Oregon coast. Fuel up with a proper Portland breakfast, pack some good reading, stop off for ice cream, and dive in.
Editor in chief