Eve Marx/For Seaside Signal
One of the great joys of living so close to the Cove is that almost any day, rain or shine, sun or gloom, I can almost always watch someone brave these ferocious waters to surf. It took some time for this East Coast oriented girl who grew up on the Jersey shore to fathom why anyone in their right mind would enter the ocean in the last days of December unless you’re in Maui or Malibu, but since moving to this windswept and rugged beach town on north Oregon coast, I am reminded daily that winter surfing is a call of the wild.
Yesterday, during a break from writing and cleaning the house, I snapped a leash on Lucy and headed for the Cove. I wasn’t disappointed; the short strip of the parking area across from Seltzer Park was filled with vans, cars, and trucks. The air was nippy, but there wasn’t much wind, and the sun was shining and the tide was right, which meant a lot of surfers — old, young, male and female — were out to test themselves. I counted eight experienced surfers in the more challenging waters closest to the Point; another six, less experienced surfers, were on their boards in the easier waters slightly to the north.
Earlier this morning at a coffee shop I frequent in Gearhart, I was discussing winter water temps. Someone offered up a theory about the Pacific being warmer on the Oregon coast in winter in reaction to Japanese gulf winds. I went on line and came across a paper written by a Dr. Tim Ball who in 2013 wrote about an area of warm water off the Oregon coast known as “The Blob.” He attributed this phenomenon to a combination of El Niño, drought and global warming. Throughout 2014 and 2015, “The Blob” continued to spread, but nobody’s mentioned it since. This warmer water was said to be nutrient poor and had an adverse affect on marine life. I’m guessing the winter surfers those years didn’t mind it a bit.
If you’re going to get in cold water, it’s imperative to have the right wetsuit. According to a surf forecast I found on line, today’s water temp was 49 degrees Fahrenheit. This is considered very cold. To get into water this chilly requires a quality steamer wetsuit, a neoprene hood, gloves, and boots.
There is something extraordinarily beautiful about watching winter surfers. They are brave. Winter waves are big, and more dangerous. I find it mesmerizing to watch these aquatic ninjas, bobbing in the swell. Experts who have surfed around the world have called surfing the Cove a world-class experience. The wave energy rolls down from the Gulf of Alaska. There are sharks.
One might wonder what compels a person to purposefully put themselves at such risk, but even a few minutes observing winter surfers has revealed to me what they’re actually doing is looking death in the face. And that is life-affirming. It’s a dramatic outlook.