The Pacific Northwest might not be what first comes to mind when you think of surfing. The region, which stretches from British Columbia to Northern California—has a reputation for being rainy, cold, and windy. Yes, you do always have to wear a wetsuit—even in summer—but the PNW’s rugged coastline, beautiful views, and lack of crowds make it a uniquely appealing surf destination.
Whether you’re a beginner looking for some whitewash or a seasoned surfer with consistent sets on the agenda, the PNW has something for you. We’ve narrowed down the myriad surf destinations here to four that should make your list.
Photo courtesy of Duncan Sadava via Outdoor Project
Only a two-hour drive from Portland, Short Sands Beach—or “Shorties”, as the locals call it—is a sheltered cove lined with spectacular cliffs. The half-mile hike from the parking lot to the beach takes you through a Jurassic Park-like forest, which will put you in a state of awe before you even paddle out. The fairly consistent beach break means you’re likely to have a good time regardless of when you visit, though you’ll find the warmest temperatures in the summer.
Best local surf shop: Cleanline Surf
Fuel up at: San Dune Pub
Watch for: Riptides
The Long Beach Peninsula boasts 28 miles of sandy beach, so you’ll never have to worry about crowds. Though the water here is typically warmer than it is in other areas of the PNW, it’s still cold enough to require a wetsuit. Beginners will find great whitewash from the Seaview Beach approach on 38th Street. The beach break is consistent and the waves here can hold bigger swell, so advanced surfers will have fun, too.
Best local surf shop: Skookum Surf Co.
Fuel up at: Doogers Seafood & Grill
Watch for: Riptides and sideshore current
Okay, we know that some of you will insist Northern California isn’t part of the PNW, but good surf spots do not abide by geographical boundaries. Moonstone Beach is a beach break with consistent surf year-round. It’s rarely crowded and very scenic, with large rocks rising out of the ocean to the north. Expect everything from longboard-worthy rights and lefts to clean barrels. Regardless of your ability level and surf style, you’ll have a fun session at Moonstone.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Johnson via Outdoor Project
Best local surf shop: Salty’s Supply Co.
Fuel up at: Sandy’s Deli & Bakery
Watch for: Sharks, urchins, riptides, and rocks
Tofino, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, is Canada’s surf capital. It has a small-but-strong local scene, and the scenery is quintessentially PNW with rocky shores, lush rainforests, and moody weather. North Chesterman Beach is large enough for surfers and beach-goers alike, with a consistent left and right beach break. If it’s pumping here it can get a bit crowded, so remember your surf etiquette!
Best local surf shop: Live to Surf
Fuel up at: Tofitian Cafe
Watch for: Sharks and riptides