This is why Bend, Oregon, should be your next surf destination

Over the past decade Bend, Oregon has emerged as one of North America’s premier outdoor towns.

With high altitude skiing and snowboarding, world-class mountain biking and more microbreweries per capita than anywhere else in the world, there are very few things that this adventurer’s paradise doesn’t offer.

But what about surfing?

Well, as of this year, Central Oregon’s adventure hub has that too.

Summer days bring out the crowds at the Green wave. Photo courtesy of Bend Parks and Recreation.
Summer days bring out the crowds at the Green wave. Photo: courtesy of Bend Parks and Recreation
Featuring a man-made surf wave in the middle of the Deschuttes River, Bend Whitewater Park is officially bringing surfing to the high desert.

The park actually features four waves that are controlled manually by Bend Parks and Recreation to create ideal conditions for surfers, kayakers and SUPers, but the lure of a surfing wave in a ski town is the park’s crowned jewel.

In fact, it isn’t rare to find Bend local (and legendary Pipeline surfer) Gerry Lopez shredding the artificial wave on a weekday afternoon.

If the stamp of a surfing legend isn’t enough, the Bend Whitewater Park won the national “Facility or Park Design Award” from the National Recreation and Park Association this October.

GrindTV traveled to Oregon to check what all the hype was about, and see why Bend is the next go-to surf destination. Here are some tips for river surfing in Oregon.

Make sure to pack the shortboard and wetsuit, this wave is fast and fun. Photo: Courtesy of Bend Parks and Recreation
Getting There: Bend is about a 3-hour drive from Portland, but nearby Redmond Airport has upped its game in recent years, offering direct flights from Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, making flying into this mountain haven a much easier commute for adventure travelers.

When to Go: Even though the river flows all year, the best time to surf is during spring and early summer when melting snow and heavy precipitation raises the level and flow of the river. While surfing is an option for most of the year, the best time to surf a good wave is when the river is high.

The Bend Whitewater Park features four customized waves, a channel for tube floating, and a wildlife preserve. Photo courtesy of Bend Parks and Recreation.
The Bend Whitewater Park features four customized waves, a channel for tube floating, and a wildlife preserve. Photo: Courtesy of Bend Parks and Recreation
Learn the Ropes: River surfing is similar to (but not exactly) ocean surfing.

For one, Bend is a shortboard-only wave, so leave the longboard at home. Also, to get into the wave, there are special concrete blocks on the perimeter of the wave (which resembles a waterfall) that surfers must jump off to get into the wave.

Once into the wave, surfers can cut back and move up and down the face as if they were riding in the ocean.

Know the Code: Surfing typically happens on one wave in the whitewater park (the second wave down from the bridge known as “Green Wave”). The remaining three waves can be shaped into a surf wave, but conditions change by the day, so make sure to consult the park’s website. One surfer at a time, once you fall, get to the back of the line.

Also, the wave “switches” at noon everyday, meaning that the steel plates that control the size of the wave will adjust to maximize the conditions. Make sure to plan your day around that.

What to Bring: The Deschuttes River is snowmelt, meaning it is cold year round. Bring a thick wetsuit (at least a 4mm, if not a 5mm) and booties. Leave the leash at home, as surfing with a leash can be dangerous in river conditions. The facility has tools for switching out fins, but requires surfers to switch-in low profile fins for safe surfing.

Alternatives: The river is not just about surfing, just ask the thousands of tube riders that float the the stretch of water every weekend.

If you aren’t quite ready to give up the adrenaline rush, the three other waves in the whitewater park vary in difficulty and flow to facilitate all of your kayak, body board and SUP needs.

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