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Surfing the Oregon Coast with Tom McNamara: Snowboarding
Oregon Coast Notes - Surf Report

Surfing in the Snow

snowboardingAs I am not known for great timing, let’s get familiar with a winter sport that makes surfers appreciate “bad” weather.  Oddly, now that it is really spring, winter is finally taking hold in the Cascades.  After a dismal winter for the ski resorts, snow, lots of it, is now falling in the right places.

Gravity is our friend.  It pulls us down the face of a wave, or down the side of a mountain.  But standing on two skis, facing forward, was never a natural act for a surfer. 

Long ago (was it the 80’s?  Maybe earlier; I’m not going for total accuracy here) in the Midwest, Sherman Poppen invented the “snurfer”, sort of a skateboard deck with a rope attached to the nose, so the rider could hold it while standing and riding down a snowy slope.  It was a novelty, and never really took off, but the idea was out there, and it wasn’t long before the first primitive snowboards were developed by surfers who saw the potential.  Among these were Californians Chuck Barfoot and Tom Simms.  I’ll credit them with the first functional snowboards that really got the sport going. Many people will incorrectly link Jake Burton Carpenter with the origin of snowboarding.  While he is the founder of Burton Snowboards, probably the most well known brand, he was actually a late-comer to the industry.

For surfers, a snowboard makes far more sense than skis, because it’s ridden in the same manner as a surfboard:  One foot forward, one behind.  There are subtle differences in weight distribution, depending on snow depth.  And a cool thing about a snowboard is that most can be ridden in either direction, opening up a vast range of maneuvers.  As with surfing, there are different sizes and types of board shapes for specific applications.  And what surfer could resist the joy of not having to paddle back out after each wave.  At a ski resort, you just hop on a chairlift that takes you back to the top of the mountain while you rest up.

Snowboarding is most like surfing when the snow is deep and fresh.  Here in the Cascades, we get deep, but often wet and heavy snow.  Savvy snowboarders in the Northwest will be watching the cold fronts arriving from the Pacific (avid surfers become amateur meteorologists, and good ones!) and see the freezing levels drop behind those fronts.  As I write, a cold front has passed, it’s about 40 here with heavy showers, and snow is dumping in the mountains.  Rare Cascade powder:  Perfect!  If you’re the type who enjoys groomed trails on a sunny day, stay home.  The rest of us will be their early, dressed for the conditions,  and loving it.  The wind will blow, any exposed skin will suffer, many will hunker down in the lodge with cocoa, but we will be surfing in the snow.

Tom McNamara

Tom McNamara has been surfing since 1965. Tom is a well respected Oregon surfer and surfboard maker. Tom, with his partner Greg Niles, co-owns Ocean Pulse Surf and Skate in Newport Oregon. To get in touch with Tom, Greg or any of their knowledgeable staff call them at 541-265-7745 or visit them at www.oceanpulsesurf.com. For the real deal stop by their store located at 428 SW Coast Hwy Newport, Oregon.