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Saying Goodbye to the PNW: Memories of Manzanita, Oregon

In May of 2016, I decided it was time to step away from Vancouver, BC for a while and relocate to Australia. After accidentally staying for ten years when I had originally planned for two, I figured it was about time to get started on all of those grand adventures I thought I’d have had by now. The seven months following my decision were then so bittersweet, as everything felt like the last time.

Because I’m tacky, there tends to be an ABBA song that fits to every phase of my life. And this break-up with the Pacific Northwest is no different.

Breaking up is never easy, I know, but I have to go. Knowing me knowing you, it’s the best I can do.

Breaking up is never easy, I know, but I have to go. Knowing me knowing you, it’s the best I can do.

I’ve taken my sweet time saying goodbye over the last year—to the places who have made me and the people that have given me so much.

Since 2012, I’ve been making frequent trips to Manzanita with various groups of other weekend warriors. The routine is set—we shuttle down by the car-full on Canadian holidays to get away from the Tofino crowds, up to 15 of us per house, and settle in for a weekend of exceptional communal cooking, hot tub marathons, and surfing.

In April of 2016, I spent 10 days driving and camping on the Oregon coast, climbing the dunes in Florence, revelling at Thor’s well, and ultimately spending Easter in the house with a lovely, musical, motley crew of friends. To say it was emotional might be an understatement as I’m a terrible sap and knew this was the last time I would be there for a very long while. As such, I was flooded with memories from the years before. Memories of a lot of firsts, watching a lot of friends have their firsts, and lots of birthdays and holidays spent on the beaches.

Learning Limits

On the Thanksgiving trip the fall before, our group was a bit different, and a little less experienced in the water. Our go-to spot in Oregon has always been Smuggler’s Cove (also called Short Sands and Oswald State Park) but we had learned the night before that the nearby Ecola State Park Beach had been used in the original Point Break as a Bells Beach Double—something that still makes very little sense to me—and we were keen to give it a try. A pilgrimage of sorts.

Only a few steps in, I knew I wouldn’t be surfing there that day. After watching from the shore for a while, I’d noted that the current was pretty intense, and I quickly abandoned my plan of paddling out. The BC Lottery Corp slogan of “know your limit, play within it” came to mind. I knew the limits of my abilities, and this was too strong for me.

As I made my way back up to the log we’d set up at, I could hear the George Costanza in my head exclaiming, “the sea was angry that day, my friends!”  Reaching the others, some of whom were very new to surfing, I pointedly told them to be really cautious, and that the current was way stronger than what little they’d experienced at Short Sands.

Call me mother hen if you must, but I was not at all convinced that they’d observed from the beach for long enough when a small group paddled it out. It wasn’t long before the greenest of the green was sucked out back behind the rocks where he was pummeled by wave after wave.

Eventually, with a lot of help, he managed to get out and come back to the log looking shook up. Given some time, he was back to his usual jovial self, and thankfully called it there.

Needless to say, we went back to Short Sands.

Oregon is very hard to say goodbye to

In April, 15 of us were sat around the living room looking out over the ocean as Sneaky Pete the Scotsman led us in a rousing rendition of Jennifer Paige’s Crush—you haven’t lived till you’ve heard Crush sang in the thickest Scottish accent. I looked around at this smattering of old and new friends, and while I was sad to be leaving, I realized that I’d been coming to Oregon and surfing the same break for four years.

Manzanita will always have a special place in my heart, but it’s time to surf somewhere else. At least for a little while.

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Behind the Lens—Catherine Bernier