Surf odyssey to the "Dump".

When I think about the sport of surfing I invariably envision sand beaches, warm water and friendly waves. Such a rosy perspective can be blamed on naivety and paging through too many surf magazines. Being new to surfing, I tend to romanticize it. I have been fortunate enough to surf , with relative success, beautiful beaches around the globe. Thankfully, Mexico, Maui, Oregon, and New Zealand have all smiled on me. It was a surf trip high into the Olympic Peninsula in November that shed some light on the nitty-gritty side of surfing.


This particular surf trip started in mid November. In the spirit of exploration and adventure it shaped up to be a week long exploratory run up the Olympic peninsula with my good friend Sean. The intention was to surf. Instead of warm sand beaches, this adventure was all about staying dry and warm. Winter was bearing down and the Olympic Peninsula is one of the wettest ends of the earth. November was simply gonna turn this wet rainforest into a cold wet rainforest. I flew from the mountains west to the ocean. Sean met me at the airport in Portland. Using his minivan as our apartment on wheels, we made our way north from Hood River. If our first day on the road was any indication, we were in for a soggy trip. The rain fell steadily all morning, then hard that night. (did I mention that this is one of the wettest places on earth). The next day we drove on until we started running out of road. The north-west tip of tip of the country was close. Cape Flattery, the weather beaten NW tip of the United States marks the end of this road.
We were looking for the "Dump". Local beta placed some of the most consistent waves in a secluded cove out at the local dump. Our directions were a bit incomplete but our determination wasn't. Between our map and our sense of direction we managed to find our way to the edge of town and onto the access road leading, we hoped, to some great waves. Winding our way deeper into the woods, we past several signs dissuading us from going on. Soon, a constant stream of trash and junk along the roadside screamed that we were closing in. The anticipation was crushing, the vibe a bit ominous. There were so many question marks. Was this legal? dangerous? a good idea? We didn't know and in a way, it didn't matter. We were committed.
One final sweeping corner and there it was. The Dump.
seagulls at dump
The pile of discarded excess of our society stood towering above. Literally, a mountain of trash. The smell of garbage and sound of squawking seagulls was overwhelming, almost intimidating. Sensory overload. It took a minute to process. This place had a strange feel. Hard to put my finger on, but there was peculiar energy here, sorta like we had wandered into the wrong bar at the wrong hour, unfamiliar and unknown. We retreated out to a spot where we could pull off the road without sinking into the muck that was one part mud and two parts garbage. We were careful to avoid parking on the old shower curtain and smashed printer. Amid the cacophony, we pulled on our wetsuits. Unfortunately, its never easy when it's 5MM thick and cold and clammy from yesterdays session. Kinda comes with the territory.

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Our handwritten directions had helped us to get here but that was the extent of it. From here we would have to just figure it out. It was obvious that the water was to the north and we needed to find a trail that penetrated the thick doug-firs that surrounded us. Suited up, booties on, and boards under our arms we started looking, committing. A natural break in the trees drew us in, then a slight footpath revealed itself. We ducked under the low lying branches and into the rainforest. A trail was hidden in there. Slowly the garbage trailed off and the background noise switched from seagulls to the ocean, the crashing of waves. Before the trail descend steeply to the coast, we passed through a small wide spot, a shrine of sorts. Configured together amidst a backdrop of old televisions and children's chairs was a menagerie of stuffed animals and dolls. Macabre, surreal, creepy….. certainly, but somehow there was an element of humor, and spontaneity. The grimy Winnie-the-Pooh seemed almost to be laughing at the absurdity of it all. The armless doll was far more stoic.
Trail Trash
We pressed on, dropping down to the waves. At the bottom of a wet, steep hillside was a quiet cove with light brown sand and nice surfing. The only audience was a hillside of large trees. Beautiful. Perfect really, but what a trip.
In terms of surfing, the dump was anything but a dump. The energy here was just as it should be, really good. Mother Nature was shining. We surveyed the scene for a few minutes and then surfed for a couple hours. Friendly and consistent, the waves once again smiled on us. With the sound of the oceans and the stillness of the giants on shore, it was hard to believe what lay just over the ridge. Satisfied and tired, we wound our way back up through the over-sized ferns, past the shrine, and across the mud and muck of the dump. This time around, the "Dump" wasn't quite so strange and intimidating. This ugly, stinking ogre of a place wasn't so bad after all. The energy has transformed from intimidating and unknown to curious and familiar. We transformed from wet, cold rubber encapsulated surf beings into dry warm travelers, and hit the road. The coffee in the thermos was still warm. Sometimes a little slice of paradise exists in the most unlikely places.