Bend Bound!

Photo: Nadia 

Photo: Nadia 

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. 

Surf Bend

Bend is one of those towns that I instantly thought, "Yeah, I could live here." 

This was my second time visiting Bend. Last year I didn't go near the new surf wave due to some horror stories I heard about the swim behind it. But they spent all of last Winter improving it, making it safer, and making the wave even bigger (from 20 feet wide to 40). I hadn't been in Bend more than an hour before I was wetsuited up with my new Badfish Sk8 under my arm. 

It took me hours to figure out how to surf it. Floating in on my stomach and popping up proved to be unsuccessful. The only way I was going to surf it is if I learned how to acid drop. Seeing me struggle and probably wanting me to get a surf as much as I did, the locals offered me some tips...
"You need more of an angle." or "Try going into it with more speed." 
All of which were welcomed and eventually I put them all together and glided across the green face for the first time. I had never felt anything like it! Despite my arms feeling like they were going to fall off; I couldn't stop.

But it's not just this beautiful wave that makes me think I could put my van on cinderblocks and change my address. It's the people. When I showed up they didn't make me feel like I was some imposter looking to take up their precious wave time. They looked to me with a smile and a head nod that implied "Welcome to Bend". There was an energy so stoke filled there was no feeling of intimidation just pure excitement and slight disbelief that this dream wave exists in their backyard. 

I've seen surf communities with epic waves turn sour and bitter because their wave was getting to crowded. And I hope that never happens here. This is not the ocean, the wave is endless, it's there 365 days a year (give or take). I want people to be stoked that there are more and more people getting out and enjoying the river. A result of this growth more waves will be built. Why would anyone want to stifle this river wave revolution? My message to Bend is don't lose your soul, every day be grateful that just three years ago this didn't exist and now you get to surf in the F'ing mountains! I love you Bend "Dont go changin!"

(P.S. for insanely friendly service, atmosphere, delicious coffee, and ocean rolls visit our friends at The Palate Coffee Bar and tell them Brittany from RVR 2 RVR sent you ;)

General River Surfing Etiquette

In response to my ‘No Locals.’ post I wanted to write one based on what I’ve known to be commonly used river surfing etiquette guidelines. There are always going to be waves where beginners do not belong, but again, I believe it is no excuse to be an asshole. There aren’t many resources out there for people to refer to, such is the purpose of this post. As you can see, there’s not much too it, very basic guidelines to maintain peace and an aloha spirit at the wave.

Surf Time - Know the acceptable amount of time to stay on the wave. Nobody likes to stand in line. Everyone is anxious to get back on the wave. A commonly understood surf time is 2 minutes. Use your time to carve, have fun, and then when it’s the next persons turn try a new trick or just exit the wave. People are there to surf, not watch you surf. And no, being a local does not entitle you to take as much time as you please. If you want five minute surfs get there before everyone else. 

Throwing your paddle - Stand up paddlers after falling off the wave will sometime throw their paddles into the eddy to make sure they can swim quickly into the eddy; to avoid getting washed too far downstream. Sometimes this is ok, if there aren’t a lot of people in the eddy and you don’t risk hitting anyone. You must be confident you can retrieve it yourself. Don’t do it with the expectation of someone chasing after it for you. (Practice swimming with your paddle, my friend Nikki Gregg showed me a trick of using it as an actual aid to get you back in the eddy by reaching the blade across the eddy line or using it like a kayak paddle propelling you back into the eddy.)

The Line-up - If the line-up for the wave is crowded it can get really confusing on whose up next. Shortboarders, stand up paddlers, or body boards all can wait their turn on shore; making a very discernible line. Kayakers have to wait in the eddy. It’s up to all of us to communicate with each other on who goes next. I always try to get a visual confirmation from kayakers that it’s my turn and I’m not snaking someone in line. Everyone deserves  a fair shot and everyone’s time is valuable. 

 Pick up after Yourself. - We all enjoy snacks and  a cold beverage in-between surfs…pick up after yourselves. Respect the river and your natural surroundings. 

 If you see someone in trouble, help them. - We’re a community and we have to look out for each other. Be aware of what’s going on around you.

 Crafts Moving Downriver have the Right of Way - Get off the wave or out of the way of people moving downstream.

The river is a wild and dangerous place. It’s up to you to have the proper equipment and knowledge before getting out on the water. Being unprepared not only puts you in danger but puts your fellow surfers in danger. Take a lesson or have someone who is experienced help you. You should do the same thing when going out surfing in the ocean for the first time.