Surfers worldwide gather on Oregon Coast for big ride

Clad in parkas and hoodies, flip flops and knit caps, the surfers gathered Thursday in the parking lot of a local coffee shop under a sky not yet lit by day.

They came from Australia, Ireland, Hawaii, South Africa, having traveled a full day or more to get here and were sleep deprived, jet lagged and travel weary.

And still they smiled.

From here, it’s straight to the beach for a ride on a wave that could easily reach 40 feet and just maybe make them a winner in the 2009 Nelscott Reef Tow In Classic and Big Wave Paddle In.

It’s the fifth year for the invitation-only event that calls for surfers worldwide to drop everything and get to the Oregon on 48-hours notice.

Teammates ride on jet skis to the reef and take turns surfing it, scoring points for “radical, controlled maneuvers in the critical section of the wave with speed, power and flow.”

It is the only professional big wave contest in the northwest, according to head judge, Mike Paul, of Seattle. Some said it couldn’t be done, but they didn’t know guys like Chris Bertish, who arrived in Portland from South Africa at 1:30 a.m. and drove here from the airport.

“It is half-way around the world,” noted Bertish. “It is an amazing location, an amazing wave. It is a privilege and an honor to be invited to this event.”

— Excerpt from The Oregonian, October 23, 2009

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