Hood River

Since the dawn of surfing, the west coast of the United States has been considered a cultural root that helped establish and propel surfing into the public limelight, embedding a distinct lifestyle and mentality into the communities that occupy its beautiful coastline. 

While California does receive most of the credit and stardom as the surfing hub of the west coast, Oregon and Washington are arguably more emblematic of a true surfer's paradise; jagged rock cliffs, limited feasible access, frigid water making for fewer crowds, miles and miles of uninhabited shoreline and pristine landscapes vacant from the pollution of coastal mansions and overly condensed towns.

Together, California, Oregon, and Washington make up over 1500 miles of Pacific coastline, and under the right conditions, a surfer's paradise also makes for incredible kiteboarding.


When the preferred conditions for surfers deteriorate, typically, fantastic kiteboarding conditions emerge. In an attempt to seize both ends of this spectrum, hoping for offshore, or minimal winds for surfing, accompanied by a healthy mix of side – shore winds for kiteboarding, No. Font, myself and acclaimed photographer and friend, Toby Bromwich, along with his dog Zuri, plotted a trip, packed our bags and planned to begin our journey in San Francisco, California, making our way north, following the coast and taking advantage of every day, with or without wind

With kiteboarding, when assessing a destination worth traveling, one that is capable of providing and one that consistently provides are two elemental qualities that fundamentally impact the likelihood of a trip coming to fruition. The unfortunate reality of the west coast is that for most of the year, it is capable of providing incredible kiteboarding conditions, but relying on it for wind is impractical. To effectively experience the portion of the coast we sought to discover, we figured the most authentic way to immerse ourselves was to follow the forecasts, rely on a pickup truck for transportation, and pitch a tent in locations that allowed easy access to the ocean.

In planning, No. and I had envisioned spending a large chunk of our trip in northern California, but after arriving, the forecast proved otherwise; wind graphs on a downwards trend and no foreseeable sign of swell. Without wasting any time, we revised our plans and hit the road, making our first stop just south of the Oregon border, surrounded by Redwoods; some of the largest and tallest trees in the world with trunks so large it makes one feel insignificant amidst their presence.

The beaches shared similar significance with coarse rock cliffs jetting into the water, acting as a barrier against the waves that ceaselessly lapse against them. Many nights we pitched our tent merely yards from the ocean towards the top of dunes, falling asleep to the churn of the ocean and waking up to the light of the sun.

Nearly every morning our tent would be pooled with condensation, and our sleeping bags acted as the sponge that slowly absorbed the moisture through the night.

While California more readily caters to the amusement of travellers, the further north we drove, the further we removed ourselves from the cliche glamour illustrated by blogs and “van life” that perpetuates throughout the internet. As we exited California, the more we were able to distinguish the transformation of the coastline and the towns that about it. Although it was early September, and we had high hopes of camping in the summer warmth, Oregon's coast is a stark reminder of the brisk conditions that can ward off those timid by cool ocean air and frigid water temps.

During the evenings when the sun is swallowed by the ocean, No. and I found ourselves seeking full insulating attire; winter beanies, down jackets and excited to regain comfortable circulation from our sleeping bags. One of the great perks of sleeping near the ocean is the unmatched scenery and proximity to the location if conditions align. However, one of the downsides of sleeping on the coast is the humidity, especially in colder weather. Nearly every morning our tent would be pooled with condensation, and our sleeping bags acted as the sponge that slowly absorbed the moisture through the night. Fortunately, we never experienced rain, and during the day we would lay our gear out in the sun to dry, as a preparatory reset for the night to come.

We were constantly on the move and doing our best to take advantage of the wind, which was more of a light and inconsistent sea breeze. At nearly every spot that we pumped up our kites, we were the only ones kiteboarding, giving credence to the novelty of each location and adding value to our trip. Never once was there a dull moment. No. was able to paraglide below a lighthouse and just beyond him, we saw whales navigate their way through kelp forests. We drove our truck through a hole in a tree (purposefully), toasted bagels over a stovetop, Jetboiled excessive amounts of tea and coffee, cooked gourmet pizza on the side of the road, and made our way into the ocean at least once every day. What more could you ask for?

All inclusively, the trip was an incredible experience and offered us an opportunity to gain an appreciation for the west coast and its haphazard forecasts; sometimes wind blowing from the opposite direction indicated by the meters, and on one occasion, its variability allowing us to kite in two completely opposite directions in the matter of an hour. The saying, “you can sleep when you’re dead,” is an assertion as old as time, and any pursuit to validate this claim would likely confirm the latter. For all intents and purposes, this trip could not have been more meaningful.

With confidence, I stake the claim that when given the opportunity to kiteboard on the west coast, never sleep when conditions materialize because they can disappear as quickly as they arrive and may never return. For the entirety of the trip, we would either ride until nightfall or stay at the water's edge long enough to wear out our optimism for the conditions to swing in our favor.

As a result, if we weren't attempting to cook, we were scrambling to find a restaurant willing to serve us past 9 pm, which proved exceedingly difficult in the small coastal towns we found ourselves passing through. This was not my first road trip with No. and certainly will not be my last. However, it will be a memorable one.

I will remember it as a trip where sleep was minimal, forecasts were defective, sustenance was irrelevant, sunsets were renowned, toilets were scarce, Zuri slowly became our friend, summer does not always mean warmth, and without a pulse of hesitation, I think we would all agree to do it all over again, with or without the experiential knowledge and wisdom of the elusive western coastline. Although I cannot guarantee you will be able to kiteboard, if you choose to camp, you will increase your chances, because on the west coast, you never really sleep.