Posted on March 16 2020
Working in one of the few surf shops in Washington, I get questions all the time about different spots. “Where do you even surf in Washington?” “How do I get to ______?” “What does a good forecast look like for ________?” While it’s great to see so many people amped to find more places to get in the water, these questions present a dilemma specific to surf culture. I want to be encouraging and supportive of these surfers learning the area, but I don’t want to give away any secret spots or contribute to overcrowding. In particular, there is a certain special region capable of epic surf (when it works) that also happens to be revered and protected by the tight-lipped regulars who know it well. And, having enjoyed it many-a-time, I find myself wanting to keep the crowds away and maintain its greatness.
So, how do you keep the stoke alive without giving too much away?
Often, I’ve resorted to an honest explanation of all that. Truly one of the things that makes Washington surf special is its elusiveness, and anyone who surfs regularly understands that sentiment. Coming from Seattle, many of us have to drive many hours in both directions and pack layers on layers of neoprene to get to finicky spots that can be easily corrupted by winds and tides. It can lead to some days of frustration, but, in my opinion, it can also lead to some of the most rewarding, delectable sessions of all time. When you have to work for it, even small benefits turn into major scores.
On top of that, for the area, the forecasting sites are sparse and often inaccurate making it hard to find detailed information about where you can surf and what it might be like once you get out there. Sites like Surfline and Magicseaweed, which would be wave-predicting staples in other parts of the world, are unreliable for this region. This draws most of us to combinations of weather radar graphics, tide charts, wind meters, and buoy readings that start to paint a more telling picture of the surf once compared and contrasted. Even with all the amateur meteorology and oceanography, sometimes the surf isn’t quite what was projected. So we go home, recalculate, and recharge for the next given opportunity.
Refining this method of finding surf for myself has been quite the journey, sometimes resulting in the most amazing days on the water, but often times concluding with a couple of tanks of gas burned and not much to show for it. That effort and learning is a rite of passage of sorts. It is authentic to the Washington experience to think everything is lining up only to get skunked and then accidentally score on a day when the chance of waves seemed slight at best. And, every episode in between those experiences becomes personal, invaluable knowledge to improve your surfing. I like the idea that the dedicated deserve it, and those who took the care to figure out tricky spots will continue to take care of them.
So don’t worry, I’m not sending hordes of people out to your secret spots, but if a few of them manage to find their way out there, I hope it is because they too have put in the time and effort to push their love of surfing to the same places it took you.