Surfing 101: Beginners

Three Beaches (and Expert Guides) to Help You Catch Your First Wave

Want to get started surfing? We’ve got the deets.

By Benjamin Tepler July 24, 2019 Published in the August 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

The beach at Oswald West State Park, a.k.a. Short Sands, in summer

Short Sands (Oswald West State Park)

Best Outfitter: Oregon Surf Adventures
There’s a reason Short Sands is bursting at the seams during peak season: a half-mile trek through towering old-growth forest leads to a wind-protected cove shrouded in trickling creeks and misty, evergreen-shrouded cliffs. Says OSA owner Lauren Ahlgren: “You can be in a bikini tanning at Short Sands, and just north of it you’d be wearing a puffy jacket.”

Pacific City

Best Outfitter: Moment Surf Company
This easily accessible surf nook has it all: beautiful views of Chief Kiawanda (a.k.a Haystack Rock), scalable, sandy Cape Kiwanda, and Pelican Brewery literally steps from the beach. “It’s a gradual, flatter beach, so it helps slow the waves down as they come in—real user-friendly,” explains Moment co-owner Jeff Mollencop.

Agate Beach

Best Outfitter: Ossies Surf Shop
Protected by the massive Yaquina headland, Agate (along with Otter Rock) is one of the best beginner breaks near Newport. Says an Ossies insider: “The atmosphere across the street [from the surf shop] is very friendly, and there’s a ton of room and white water to play in.”

BONUS: When should I go surfing?
Summer, spring, and fall can all be beautiful, but winter’s stormy swell is best left to experts. Sitting at home in Portland wondering if today’s the day? Have a look at the surf forecast: offers a snapshot (and beach cams!). Wave height, wave period (the more time between waves, the better), wave direction, wind (south winds make for bad surf conditions at the above spots), and high and low tides all affect surf quality. When in doubt, call your favorite surf shop.

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