My Guide to the Best Surf Spots in Oregon
Ah, Oregon! With lush rainforests, snow-capped peaks, deep canyons, and rugged beaches, it’s easily one of my favorite states in America. But for a surfing enthusiast like myself, what drew me to Oregon most is its epic 362-mile coastline and the promise of uncrowded surf. The Oregon coast has gorgeous beachfront towns, wide shores, epic swells, and cliffside vistas that make your heart race. And apart from local surf bums, these waters don’t receive near the fanfare as Hawaiian or Californian surf do.
Surfing in Oregon can be a real treat for experienced or beginning surfers willing to brave the rough conditions. In addition to surf shops near calmer areas offering lessons, Oregon can have insane swells that challenge even the avid surfers. Regardless of your skill level, mentally prepare yourself for frigid water temperatures and jagged rocks. Oregon isn’t a walk in the park, but it’s a place dear to my heart for its sensational views.
If you’re searching for the best surf spots in Oregon, I’ve found some of the most surreal locations. Follow these places on the map to visit charming towns, magical state parks, and wild beaches for five-star surfing.
My Guide to the Best Surf Spots in Oregon
Oregon Surf Info | Oregon Surf Insights | Best Oregon Surf Spots | Oswald West State Park | Cape Lookout | Lincoln City Beach | Pacific City Beach | Otter Rock | Cannon Beach | Indian Beach | Agate Beach | Coos Bay
Oregon Surf Info
For nature lovers, surfing in Oregon is all about the views. Temperate rainforests (that’s right it’s an actual rainforest), rocky cliffs, and sea stacks dot the coastline for unbelievable vistas while you’re scoping out waves. But Oregon isn’t for the faint of heart, and every inch of its coast has frigid 50-degree water, similar to surfing in Massachusetts or surfing in Rhode Island. Wetsuits are a must and you might want booties, gloves and a hoodie as well, even in summer!
Another thing I love about Oregon surfing is the accessibility of its coastline to the public. In 1967, Oregon’s beaches permanently became public land, and everyone has free access to its wild shores. There are incredible surf breaks all across the state and paying endless entry fees would be a downer.
With 362 miles of rugged coastline, you’d think Oregon would be a more mainstream surfing destination. But there are plenty of secluded spots to discover that only locals know about. So, if you’re searching for surf spots not bombarded with tourist surfers, Oregon could be your answer.
Oregon Surf Insights
Similar to other surfing destinations I’ve written about, there are a few essentials about Oregon you should know. Before you drive along the Oregon coast searching for the ‘big one,’ have these tips in your back pocket.
- Bring a good Wetsuit – If you listen to one piece of my advice, then a proper wetsuit is critical while surfing in Oregon. You can probably do with a 4-3 in summer but for winter bring the thickest one you have plus boots, gloves, and a hoodie. The Pacific Northwest waters stay around 50 degrees but can occasionally dip into the 40s. Surfing in those temperatures without an adequate wetsuit can be a matter of life and death.
- Physical Barriers in the Water – The temperature isn’t the only thing in the water to be aware of. Oregon’s rugged coastline has jagged rocks and enormous sea stacks that protrude into the water. If you’re not aware of your surroundings, crashing into hidden rocks could certainly happen. And broken bones or board aren’t the way to kick off your Oregon surfing adventure.
- Sharks are out There – Although shark attacks are rare, they are still possible along the Oregon coast. Great White Sharks are the scariest creatures lurking in these waters. I recommend checking with lifeguards and locals about recent shark sightings.
- Local surf Culture – Some Oregon surf spots are still undiscovered by mass tourists, and local surfers prefer it that way. It wouldn’t be a shocker to find hostility towards out-of-towners for invading the local surf spots. Although this shouldn’t be an issue in most locations, you should follow the surfing etiquette established by local crowds. Be respectful and wait your turn.
- Winter is for Veteran Surfers Only – Don’t even consider the Oregon winters unless you know what you’re doing. Fierce storms pound the coastline this time of year, and groundswells have more power behind them. Staying updated on local forecasts, tides, and longshore currents are imperative, in addition to having your warmest wetsuit.
Best Oregon Surf Spots
Surfing in Oregon provides a perfect excuse to ditch city life and reconnect with Mother Nature. Many of Oregon’s best surf spots are inside state parks or in small towns with delightful communities. And best of all, most surfing hubs in Oregon don’t see large crowds like the busiest American surf meccas.
1. Oswald West State Park
Just 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, Oswald West State Park is the premier Oregon surf spot. With its temperate rainforests, sea cliffs, and immense headlands, it’s my favorite place to hang ten in Oregon. The park contains Neahkahnie Mountain and some of the Oregon Coast Trail’s most unbelievable vistas. But for surfers, Short Sands is the grand prize for its sheltered cove with consistent surf.
In a magical setting of basalt cliffs and old-growth forests, Short Sands has exceptional waves for all surfers. Although you must trudge half a mile through dense foliage with your board, epic surf awaits at the shoreline. Waves break on sandbars, and there’s plenty of clean waves throughout the year.
Summers are busy in this gorgeous state park, but winters provide the most hair-raising rides for advanced surfers. The cove’s sheer cliffs provide shelter from northerly winds, and southwest groundswells produce rideable waves. And the wide shores of Short Sands offer ample space for surfers to find a spot in the lineup.
2. Cape Lookout
Around a 20-minute drive from Tillamook, Cape Lookout has some of the best surf breaks in Northern Oregon. The beach sits inside Cape Lookout State Park and has one of the longest stretches of shoreline in Oregon. With its lush forests adorning the clifftops and sea stacks on the horizon, it’s heaven for nature lovers. Cape Lookout does host an intense crowd of local surfers, so don’t paddle out with a huge ego and try to catch every wave. Sit back and watch first if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Summer swells are fairly reliable, but late fall brings the biggest waves to Cape Lookout’s shores. If you do venture to Cape Lookout, a lengthy trek through the forest is required to reach the shoreline. I’d suggest finding out the local forecast and surf conditions to ensure it’s worth the hike. But when the surf is up at Cape Lookout, it’s hard to find a sweeter surf spot in Oregon.
3. Lincoln City Beach
With a wild stretch of coastline measuring 7 miles, Lincoln City is one of the top Oregon coast surf towns. The coastal town boasts rugged stretches of beachfront adorned with sea stacks and rocky cliffs for a picturesque setting. Although Lincoln City feels untamed, there are plenty of public access points to find those torrential Pacific waves. When rough swells hit the shoreline, you can get waves close to 10 foot.
For the best surf, January has the fiercest waves, but your wetsuit will be a necessity. Groundswells and wind swells from the west provide fantastic surf conditions in the chilly water. There won’t be many rideable waves for beginning surfers, so Lincoln City is better for avid surfers.
4. Pacific City Beach
With the Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area at its doorstep, Pacific City Beach entices surfers across the Oregon coast. Its reef break and west groundswells help produce consistent surf around the calendar. Winter is king for seasoned surfers, and January usually experiences the cleanest rides of the year. But for beginners, Pacific City has a diverse range of waves that lets you test your skills.
Thanks to its consistent surf, Pacific City remains one of the most beloved surf towns in Oregon. The beach’s natural shelter from northerly winds makes it easier for surfers to catch exciting rides during their sessions. However, Pacific City’s reliable waves aren’t a secret, and I’d suggest you get here early when the forecast calls for good surf.
5. Otter Rock
Around 8 miles north of Newport, Otter Rock ranks among the most scenic surf spots in Oregon. The Devils Punch Bowl is located here, and ancient ghost forests sit beneath its shores. Coastal bluffs and spruce forests adorn the shoreline to form a delightful setting for beachgoers. Due to the headlands sheltering Otter Rock from intense swells, newbies can catch lots of surf here. Although rideable waves are possible year-round, winter will still be your best time for quality surf.
Easterly winds provide more suitable conditions, and waves can arrive from either direction. Although popular among beginning surfers, Otter Rock does have waves reaching heights of 7-8 foot. But when there’s quality surf and the weather is fantastic, Otter Rock can get overrun with crowds. Strong rip currents and sharks can pose other potential risk factors.
6. Cannon Beach
Known for the iconic Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach ranks among my top choices for most dramatic Oregon coast beaches. If you want crazy views of the coastline, hike the trails in Ecola State Park around your surf sessions. The cliffside views provide jaw-dropping vistas of the sandy shores, sea stacks, rugged hills, and Pacific waves. Back on the beach, visit the Cannon Beach Surf Shop for all your amenities or surf lessons for beginners. Seasoned surfers venture farther south down the Oregon coast, so newbies will have a better time at Cannon Beach.
But for veterans keen on exploring the area’s natural beauty, winter is your best chance for epic swells. January has the most reliable surf, and the chilly waters usually deter most travelers from the sandy shores. Due to its popularity and proximity to Portland, Cannon Beach can get crowded during summer.
7. Indian Beach
Ecola State Park
If you’re visiting Cannon Beach but need something quieter, Indian Beach may have the answer. Although you must pay a $5 entry fee, you get the chance for more secluded surfing in this beautiful state park. The wide, sandy beach entices surfers looking for rideable groundswells without fighting the crowds. And with rocky cliffs and sea stacks on the beach’s far end, the views here are spectacular. Worth the price of admission, in my opinion!
Despite the lack of crowds, there are still some potential hazards to keep in mind. Indian Beach has fierce rip currents, sharp rocks, and sometimes sharks near its shores. While summer has the best conditions for average surfers, veterans are better off waiting until winter.
8. Agate Beach
If you wander into Newport, Agate Beach has a worthy beach break around 3 miles north of town. The coastal community’s star attraction is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse that offers sweeping views of the Pacific coast. But another interesting sight awaits you at Agate Beach whenever you dig around the coastline. The beach gets its name for the sparkling agates (colorful rock formations) strewn across the wide shores. And the exposed beach break has rideable waves bouncing off Yaquina Head suitable for beginners.
There’s consistent surf throughout the year, but winter brings out more seasoned surfers. Sea cliffs provide shelter from northerly winds and some pretty sweet views of the lighthouse. Agate’s best groundswells approach from the west but use caution against nasty rip currents. For beginners searching for a laid-back spot, check out Ossies Surf Shop for local tips. The shop has quality rental gear, will help you find the best beginner spots, or offer lessons if you need extra help.
9. Coos Bay
If you travel from Northern California towards the Oregon coast, Coos Bay should be among your first stops. Rocky headlands and jagged sea stacks engulf the beaches that resemble the wild coast beachgoers rave about. Yoakam Head shelters the beach from southerly winds and provides rideable waves for every type of surfer.
Waxer’s Surf Shop has all the gear and info to help you get started when you first arrive. For newbies, Bastendorff Beach has surf suitable for your first time riding the waves of the Oregon coast. Mid-tide produces the best waves, and groundswells are better from the west. Advanced surfers may want to bypass Coos Bay during summer since the surf can be rather tame.
Feeling stoked about surfing Oregon? Let us know which one is your favorite spot in the comments below.
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