A Beginner’s Guide: Surfing Pacific Northwest Style

By Seattle Mag July 7, 2011


I had heard rumors about surfing in Washington.  I thought that surely it was only the crazy, hard-core Pacific Northwesterners out in the freezing rain and rough ocean.  So when I found myself organizing a surf camp last summer, I was a little nervous about my first surfing experience being at Westport.   But once we arrived in the charming fishing village, my attitude started to change.

Our first stop was at Steepwater Surf Shop to get gear.  Looking back, the most challenging part of the entire day was trying to get into my wetsuit (here’s a tip: putting a plastic bag over your hands and feet makes it a lot easier for your limbs get through the suit).  Not just any wet suit, but a super wet suit with a hood, gloves, and even booties.  Head-to-toe in neoprene and you feel like you’ve morphed into an aquatic creature.

While the water was cold, I wasn’t thanks to my super suit.  The occasional splash actually felt really refreshing as we worked hard to master paddling, popping, and riding the waves.  Since Westport, I’ve surfed off the Jersey Shore, the Mexican Riviera, and Southern California’s Coast and I still love going back.  Once you’ve surfed there, other weather or gear obstacles seem trivial (except, maybe, shark infested waters).  After surfing Westport, you feel legitimate.   Surf’s up, friends!

Getting There

Westport is about two and a half hours from Seattle. From Interstate 5 near Olympia, head west on Highway 101 for about 6 miles to Highway 8, following signs for Aberdeen. After 21 miles, Highway 8 becomes Highway 12.  Follow for 20 miles until you reach Aberdeen. Follow State Route 105 to Westport, about 20 miles away. Westhaven State Park is at the far northwest end of the peninsula.

Pre-Surfing Fuel

On your way to Westport, stop at Wagner’s European Bakery & Cafe in Olympia to pick up a loaf of their famous cinnamon swirl bread and some coffee. You’ll need the energy and be truly glad you stopped.

Wagner’s European Bakery & Cafe
1013 Capitol Way S
Olympia, WA 98501


This friendly shop has everything you need to hang ten, including lessons.

Steepwater Surf Shop
1200 N. Montesano St.
Westport, WA 98595

Post-Surfing Fuel

Maybe it was the cold and exhaustion, but the hot sub sandwiches at Mermaid Deli were out of this world.   I think I’d drive to Westport just to have lunch here.

Mermaid Deli
200 East Patterson
Westport, WA 98595


It’s worth spending the night and catching some morning waves.  The Islander is in the heart of town and is close to Westhaven State Park.

The Islander
421 E. Neddie Rose Dr.
Westport, WA 98595
(360) 268.9166


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