Food for Thought

Nobody could ever make a living documenting the surf in the PNW full-time, regardless of the medium. But the world, although big, has all kinds of nooks and crannies that produce rideable waves. I want to see 'em all. Impossible? Yes, but there's always somewhere to go surf and shoot. I'm not trying to solely document the PNW. It's just home. It's where I'm comfortable. It's what I love. It's where my heart is. I'm not trying to "blow it up". I don't name names. I don't give directions. I purposely lie about locations of shots. Sure, the surfing communities have grown a lot in Oregon/Washington in the last 10/20/30 years, but it isn't because people are seeing the point or port orford or the north jetty on surfline, in mags or in films. It's because the industry as a whole has gone, and continues to go, more mainstream. And the more mainstream it gets, the more people want to surf. Furthermore, wetsuits get better and better, allowing people to surf in colder, less-crowded, locales. Places south (and even north) of here are shoulder to shoulder. Have these spots been documented? Yeah. These places, I'm sorry to say, are no secret. SSP is no secret. I don't know why this is a surprise to anybody anymore. On the right day it's literally the best left-hand point break in the states. Maybe even the northern hemisphere sans Pavones and Mundaka. The only reason it feels the way that it does is because there's a local contingent that seriously holds it down out in the lineup. And I mean seriously holds it down. More power to 'em. I've been in the water at the tip of Baja and on three separate days have had guys from South Africa, Australia and France ask me about that spot. 

"Is it really that localized?" 


"Are the locals that heavy?"


And so on and so forth. 
I hope it stays that way. Even if that means getting yelled at or kicked out of the water or called names. It's nice to know that a spot can still live up to its reputation. I actually helped the other day. I was suiting up and I saw some kid walking around with a a camera and thought I'd help him out before he got snapped on.

"Careful with that camera around here," I said kindly, with a smile. 

"Why?!" snapped the young foreigner with an unrecognizable accent.

"Because this is a very special place and a lot of people don't appreciate people taking pictures of it," I replied.

A scowl of confusion and distrust came across the guys face. Then a weird smirk. I was officially annoyed. 

"Oh. Ok," he said sarcastically as he continued onward.

With his back toward me I threw in one last piece of advice. 

"Hey, I tell ya what," I said firmly, the stranger now looking at me again "if you don't believe me, why don't you walk right over there to that gravel lot (pointing) with that camera hanging around your neck and come back here to tell me I was wrong." 

That seemed to get his attention. 

He and his buddy walked to the end of the parking lot, turned around and continued towards town. 

So even though I'm the supposed problem, I still help when I can, local or not. It may be hypocritical, but I don't want anybody else shooting it either. And again, it's absolutely no secret. It has been documented over and over and over. The bsc is no secret. It has been documented over and over and over and it's probably the most fickle spot in the entire state. The SoJDF (find Burky's blog) are no secret. They have all been written about, shot and surfed for decades or more. Everywhere has. Well, maybe not everywhere, but most of the notable spots have all ran in print publications. Yet you can still go out and score most of these places with your buddy and only a handful of people, if that. If these spots were in imminent danger of blowing up, well, wouldn't they be crowded? There's a reason 90% of my shots are of empty waves: hardly anybody surfs 'em. And, as far as I can tell, that isn't changing. 

The surf here is very "blue collar". The best dudes in the water rarely wear vans, slim jeans and have stickers on their boards. I like that. And speaking of the local communities, I don't see the future of our coastal communities being overrun by surfers and the surf industry. Look at what is going on in the local communities: nada. Sure, Lincoln City, Seaside, Newport, etc., etc. will always (hopefully) have their heads above water. But for a place to blow up, it has to be much fairer weather, much more consistent and much more alluring. The traveling surfer(s) may come through a few times a year, but, again, I don't see a lot of people moving to the coast and blowing it all up anytime in the near future. I don't think there is enough industry on our coastline for that to happen. People from Portland and Eugene and Bend will continue to learn how to surf and come over in the summer and on the weekends and crowd the lineups, sure, that's just life. But, as we all know, the best surfers in the water are the ones catching the waves. Furthermore, I know a lot of you ditch your "life/work" to go score a clean swell on a Wednesday. Keep it up. It keeps the stoke alive. I'll be seeing you out there. 

I'm writing this from my little studio south of Seaside. It's rainy, windy as hell and completely unsurfable. It takes a different breed to do what we do up here. I think we'll be safe from hoards of people for quite some time.

I could be entirely wrong. Only time will tell.


  1. The same places that were empty 20+ years ago when I started surfing in Oregon are still usually empty...
    The places that everyone surfed then are where everyone surfs today...
    I used to surf alot of those non-spots solo...
    I was 20 years younger...
    20 years stupider...
    But I still look for someone out at those places...
    So I can join them...
    If they make it look good!

  2. I completely agree with you. If anyone thinks differently about the surf scene in oregon/washington they are wrong. Props on your surfline photos. Keep up the good work. I enjoy this blog and the great pics.


  3. A true depiction of surfing in the PNW

  4. That's a good take on it MC, especially regarding SSP. Best thing you've written about the balance between what you do as a photog and respecting where you live.

  5. "There's a reason 90% of my shots are of empty waves: hardly anybody surfs 'em. And, as far as I can tell, that isn't changing"

    Well it’s true a lot of your shots like the one pictured above are for the most part unsurfable. That beach break is a real tricky one trust me I’ve tried, even assisted by a PWC once. It’s fairly easy on a good offshore day to make a wave look surfable with photography. So you send a photo of the same beachbreak to Surfline, which in reality is not surfable. But it looks surfable and is misleading at the same time. It attracts attention. People come and then end up at the already crowded spots. Attention also pisses the locs off and I’ve recently heard grumblings about your photos. So then who do they take it out on? Usually the non-local guys. Have you even surfed SSP yet? Or is this just what you hear? How many times have you been called a fagot? Have you been punched in the back of the head lately? Have you had your car vandalized? Furthermore have you even lived on the coast to get a feel for the lifestyle and getting to know the locals? I’m not necessarily hating here. You certianly know my sature in and out of the water and I'm no local. But I just think you need to put in a little more time and I bet you will eventually understand.


  6. Nah. You're hating. It's all good. ;-) Haters gon' hate. It's just part of the game. And if you think YOU'VE heard some "grumbling" lately, well, ha, you don't even know amigo. But, to correct you, the day i took the photo on this post, there were numerous heads all up and down the beach. It was very surfable and I saw one dude get two of the cleanest barrels I've ever seen in the PNW. And you're right. A lot of surf photography is smoke 'n' mirrors. Offshore wind and a decent bar/point/reef will produce great images. And although I've only lived out at the Oregon coast for a short while, I've lived coastal in California and Hawai'i. Granted the locs are different, but you must understand that I have a deep respect for all locals, everywhere. If you want to hate, hate on wannasurf for the love of God. I'm not posting names. I'm not posting directions. I'm not saying a thing. Yes I've surfed SSP. I haven't been yelled at personally, but I've heard all kinds of stuff. "Look at me one more time and I'll shove my fist down your throat!" And more things of that nature. And just because you and some other folk are fortunate enough to know the location of some of these shots, well, don't forget that the vast majority have NO idea where they are. Much love Dubster.

  7. Your photographic talent is completely worth the bullshit you'll get back from people (in my opinion), and I think you've done a great job at responding to people politely without being overly defensive.

    Whether it's right or wrong that you're taking photos, understood or misunderstood about how locals feel, it's going to be done at some point. If you're not the guy taking the photos, there will be another. You respect the ocean and the value of it, and I know that from personal experience by meeting your Hawai'ian family. If anyone deserves to be the one that takes off as a surf photographer, it's you.

    Sure you'll get a guy or two, (or 50) who will harass you, try to vandalize your personal property, perhaps try to beat you up, but I think we all know that at the end of the day none of that shit they pull will help their defense. It won't stop you from taking photos, and it most definitely will not stop other people from learning how to surf and who are continuing to make the sport more popular/mainstream. Unfortunately, that's the truth.

    I say perfect your art and eventually everyone else will fuck off, and perhaps find something better to do than to criticize your love for photography and the ocean. Better yet, they may even begin to understand that your attempts at succeeding in this career are genuine. For every person that gives you a hard time, there are 2 more peeps that support you.

    But what do I know? I'm just a chick.

  8. Hahaha. U got me. I was out that day. OK it is surfable..... sometimes.

    Just for record I'm not hating bratha. I like your stuff and am good at knowin what is where from experience as you know. It's just painful sometimes, but inevitable. You’re not the only one either so…… Plus you’re a nice guy and in the end I’m sorta looking out for you I guess. Call it tough love. But you know what you’re getting into, so I am not going to beat this horse anymore. I’m dead to this internet surf shit. It most usually puts me in a bad mood.

    Good luck to you and C U around. Glad to hear you made it out of Portland and the valley.

    P.S. Dubster moved back to Northern Cali.

    Peace. R-

  9. Locals are people who forgot about the beauty and believe the MYTH of possession and permanence.

    Indians were here in the NW for 12,000 years fishing for salmon.
    Then white man came and made rules ---Indians broke em---they threw the Indians in jail for breaking these 'new rules'.

    White men also built fences.
    And created something called 'title to land possession'.
    Indians had never seen either of these.

    One thing I have learned in life....is that
    real men talk shit out.

    But there are a lot of blue collar redneck surfers and fisherman (me being a surfer/fishermen myeslf) who tend to handle things with their ego instead of their heads.

    It's easy to get caught up in thinking we are 'protecting our turf'.
    Especially when our jobs depend on being territorial with our crab pot line placement, or drift location of our fishing nets.

    But one solid God/Mother Nature inspired tidal bore or tidal surge and this whole fantasy is gone boys and girls.

    Stay humble.
    We are only borrowing this place.
    Enjoy it while it's here.