A few weeks ago I was involved in a challenge to follow the runoff of snow from Mt. Hood to the Pacific Ocean, engaging in three different outdoor sports along the way. The whole thing, taking place over the course of one day, was filmed for a future segment on The Collective. Initially, I thought I’d only be part of the crew, providing technical assistance and helping with water shots, but the night before I was informed that I’d be one of the three “stars” of the movie, along with Alex from the office and Steph from the store.
The caveat: The first leg involved skinning up the mountain in the dark and skiing back down at sunrise. I’d never so much as had ski boots on my feet before. Not to give too much away, the first few hours were really a comedy of errors, with me hosting multiple “yard sales” in the snow, all my gear scattered around me. My two compatriots were incredibly patient with my incompetence. They were accomplished skiers, and they shared their knowledge with broad smiles on their faces.
The second leg was a paddle down the Sandy river. This was a relief for all of us, since the rapids were pretty mellow and the sun was shining. I’d negotiated whitewater in rafts before, so I was a little closer to my “element.” By the time we finished the float, we were all pretty ripe, so we dove into the icy runoff. Clean and cool, we were wide awake and ready for a drive to the coast.
We arrived at Short Sands (aka Oswald West State Park) at around 5:30. It was time for me to return the favor to Alex and Steph, who had never surfed before. Looking at the ocean, I realized that the final payoff of the film – me surfing on some quality springtime waves – was going to be a bit tough. The conditions resembled the big washing machine waters of winter. But the inside stuff looked pretty mellow, so I gave some dry land lessons on how to paddle, pop up, and avoid being knocked out by a longboard. We got in and I pushed Steph into some whitewater. Amazingly, she popped up pretty confidently and stood for a couple seconds, despite her initial fear of the choppy, short interval reforms. I looked over, and Alex was instinctively stroking with both arms into an unbroken reform. He stood up a couple times, once long enough to claim his wave by throwing up both hands in victory.
I was pretty hellbent on catching one of the outside bombs to end the film, so when Steph and Alex headed in, I headed for the outside. It was such a battle to make it, but I finally got out far enough to sit on my board and gather my thoughts. What a day it had been. I was tired, dizzy, hungry, and all alone in the heaving swells. I thought about the philosophical, religious, and environmental discussions relating to outdoor sports we’d shared during our hours on the road. I marvelled at the fact that there were whole summers (not too long ago, actually) where I wouldn’t have accomplished as much as I did on this day. I considered the fact that I had just added two more people to our Oregon surfing population. By the same token, after 30 years, I’d finally joined the ranks of Oregon skiers.
The sets were overhead and closing out. From behind, I could see the waves kick up brown sand from the ocean floor when they exploded. Not a good sign. The sky was getting pretty dark. I picked the next wave that looked rideable, turned, and paddled with the last of my strength. Making the drop, I angled down the line and saw a huge section shutting down in front of me. With no other option, I dove headfirst into the turbulence.
Certain that my wave wasn’t the surfing equivalent of what Steph and Alex had done on the mountain 12 hours earlier (skiing graceful s-turns in the pink sunrise), I walked back up the beach to where our crew was changing into dry clothes. Surprisingly, they showered me in praise for even making it to the outside and attempting to ride one of the set waves. But more gratifying than that was the appreciation they showed for my taking the time to teach them to surf.
It’s a sentiment that’s been expressed in a million ways, but is there really anything better than sharing stoke with new friends?