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Tasty Waves 

Bend ski and surf guide reveals the best beaches within driving distance

click to enlarge shanepeelsurf.jpg

Shane Peel

Aaron Karitis is a can-do sort of guy.

After shoveling snow and fueling planes the skier and surfer logged eight productive years as a guide with H2O Guides in Valdez, Alaska. His job was a dream: to take clients heli-skiing in the Alaskan backcountry. The Mountain View alumnus and University of Utah graduate was responsible for picking the right ski zone (i.e., one that held steep powder stashes but was also safe). After years of working for others, he is living la vida loca in Bend and has started his own company, Pulseline Adventure (, an adventure travel guiding service that specializes in surf, fish and, his first love, ski trips.

Karitis, 30, recently returned from his seventh Pulseline Adventure trip and already has booked seven more trips for next year.

"Is it nerve-racking?," Karitis asked. "Absolutely, yes." But that's part of the job."

There's obvious crossover, he said, between surfers and skier/snowboarders. Both disciples are accented by flow and camaraderie; surfing, he added, is the warm weather salve for months in spent in single digit temperatures and 30 mph winds. So, he concluded, it made sense to include surf trips along with ski trips when he created Pulseline Adventure, which offers heli-ski and ski-tour trips in Alaska, Argentina, Japan and Canada as well surf trips to El Salvador, Nicaragua and Indonesia. Then, because he saw an underserved market, he added fishing trips to Mexico and Alaska to his guiding service.

Karitis employs his own guides as well as local experts stationed in the areas where he travels. Teaming up with local operators ensures that his clients will be rewarded with the best swell, the lightest powder, or the biggest fish.

I get needing a ski guide. Amid dangerous conditions, it makes sense to have direction. Needing a fishing guide, I also get—casting lines and coming up empty is notoriously frustrating. But a surf guide? Don't you just take a board to a known area and paddle toward the waves?

Apparently not. Especially if, as in the case of most Central Oregonians, surfing hinges on a big, expensive trip.

"A surf guide can tell you when and where to find the best conditions," Karitis said. "Swell direction, size, the equipment of other surfers—you might only have a three-hour window where the break is at its best. Once in water it also helps to have someone constantly pointing out the right place to be to catch a wave."

Practicing closer to home, before the next big surf vacation, is a smart move. While summer surfing in Oregon can be hit or miss, due to dense fog (and also dense tourists) and cold water, fall is a great time to head to the coast. The water can actually be warmer and the coast less windy, which allows for comfortable surfing on clean waves. It's worth keeping in mind that the Bay Area is home to consistent surf and is only an eight hour drive from here.

Here are a few of Karitis' favorite spots, suitable for most experience levels.

Quick Hits:

Pacific City

Primarily a split-direction beach break, Pacific City is Oregon's hot spot for surf. Chest-high to slightly overhead waves provide the best conditions for surfers of all abilities and equipment types. Northwest swells deliver the most firepower, and summer conditions are generally more user friendly. Under the right conditions a right point break can work, producing a short but powerful and often hollow option. 

 Newport, South Jetty

Newport's South Jetty region consists of mostly left-breaking waves, with a nice right point during south swells. A flurry of jetty, sandbars and beach breaks defines this region as a good beginner- to intermediate-style zone. The Pacific Marine Operations Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration draws to the region a younger and hipper crowd, as does the longboard contest held annually in September.   

Long Weekend:

Ocean Beach, San Francisco

San Francisco's home beach spans five miles. With plenty of A-frame peaks, there are ample rights and lefts. Ocean Beach (OB) is a vast beach break, which attracts swells of different directions and sizes. OB is a high-performance wave that's generous when small and, when big, is worthy of hosting the world's best, as it did for an ASP World Tour event in 2011. OB is also known as a pre-Maverick's training ground. 

Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz

One of the best and most consistent waves on the West Coast, Santa Cruz's Pleasure Point offers a wide variety of surf for both long and short boarders. A reeling right hand point break is wind-protected by a huge kelp paddy, which keeps waves clean and glassy throughout the day. First peak is a high-performance rip-able wave for groms, while second peak is a long cruiser wave for the old boys. 

No Board? No Problem.

Go here:

Flagline Trail, Bend's high-country gem, officially opens on Aug. 15 (the seasonal closure protects elk calving grounds). The scenic, flowing trail traverses past the northern end of Tumalo Mountain and connects the Metolius-Windigo Trail to South Fork. Ride from Happy Valley on Metolius-Windigo toward Flagline and be treated to jaw- dropping views of Broken Top as well as grassy meadows, mountain streams and stunning wildflowers. Flagline is also easily accessed via Dutchman Flats and is reportedly clear of snow and downed trees (mostly).

Or here:

Get out of town and go for a mountain run. Look at a map, available at most bike shops. There are near endless opportunities for linking up loops or out-and-back runs. Better yet, try a point-to-point run. Start at Sparks Lake and run on Metolius-Windigo, past Hosmer Lake, and end the run at Elk Lake Resort with a swim and a Klondike Bar. Have someone meet you there or thumb a ride back to your car at Sparks. It's easy—Elk Lake is packed on most summer weekends.


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