As our tires roll against the black tar I can’t help but feel like I am home. The constant movement and passing of landscape out my window stirs an energy inside of me liken to the feeling of climbing the tracks of a roller coaster.The road is simultaneously familiar yet foreign, exciting yet boring. I thrive in the unfamiliar and I encourage all challenges that the road decides to throw at me.
Beside me I’ve got my travel buddy Heather Jackson taking on the first leg of our journey. As we pass plains and prairies turn into a blur of browns and dull greens, leaving the Rockies in the rear view. We’re headed West, traveling from the eastern slope of Colorado to Bend, OR to surf the Deschutes river of all things.
River surfers are kind of an anomaly. Who really drives 18 hours to surf a river wave in a place that is far from tropical? We could have easily gone to Southern California or even flown to Central America. But no, we’re choosing 5/4 wetsuits, helmets, and life jackets over bikinis and bare feet. Are we crazy? Maybe a little bit.
There's something to be said about the river surfing scene that doesn't exist in the ocean. River surfing, especially when I'm going to a man made feature, is just as much about the people as the surfing itself. I know I don't have to worry about localism (in most places) and I can count on making new friends. Rivers are familiar to me, I am not threatened by them or the people as I am in the ocean.
I view Bend as training grounds for river surfing. I've always preferred natural features. Yes, it's much more difficult to find a wave with the smoothness and uniformity of the adjustable Bend feature but I'm not going for perfect. I've heard the term of river waves being more like a surfing treadmill and I only find that to be accurate for waves like Bend, Boise, and RRP (Denver). A treadmill is something you use when it's too cold outside to run in order to stay in shape. That's how I view these waves...I surf them to get into shape (or to scartch the itch) for the natural more dynamic features such as Pipeline, Lunchcounter, and other waves of that nature.
River surfing, to me, has always been about the connection to the Nature. To feeling the energy and power of the river and channeling that. I feel the high of surfing from these adjustable features, they are an absolutely blast, and I wish the Bend wave was in my backyard but it is not the same feeling I get from a natural feature. My ideal waves are removed from civilization, they are dynamic, shifting and morphing into what feels like a completely new wave.
This is not a knock on Bend at all, I love Bend. And I'm not saying it isn't river surfing. There is just something so beautiful about surfing a feature that was built by nature.