Stab Magazine | Big Wave Organizations Duel Over Nelscott Reef

Big Wave Organizations Duel Over Nelscott Reef

In other words: What the fuck is happening in Oregon?

news // Mar 11, 2019
Words by stab
Reading Time: 3 minutes

What the fuck is going on in Oregon?

It’s not so much a question as the general vibe I experience whenever spending time in the Beaver State. And I spend a surprisingly large amount of time there, considering that I live on a tropical island more than 2,500 miles away.

I’ve driven the length of the state multiple times, listening to David Sedaris books on tape while gawking at the passing scenery. Weed stores are everywhere these days, the flooded recreational market driving prices down to a lovely $50 per ounce. Rattle-trap pickup trucks express their maniacal love of firearms on bumpers and back windows up and down the interstate. Elk rest on highway shoulders as long term residents wage a war of words with the California transplants chased north by economic hardship, supposed opportunity, and warrants for their arrest.

It is, without a doubt, on average, one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the world. Rain-slick wonders of nature covered in lichen, massive surf pounding the shore, enormous bits of wayward timber washing onto the beach at every turn.

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Beards and meth and trailer parks abound. Rest stop bathrooms feature, without exception, stainless steel sheets bolted over stall partitions to, one presumes, prevent cordless drill installed glory holes.   My left-wing liberal warm weather brain expects to hear banjo twangs and “y’all” accents and casual racism at every turn.

Only the last ever makes an appearance. Oregon is pretty much lily-white. You don’t need to check the room once you’ve crossed Multnomah County limits.

It’s dead and dying timber towns, truck stops and run-down motels with suspiciously full parking lots. Reedsport features chainsaw-carved statues of Trump along its a Main street languishing under the weight of empty commercial buildings.  Roadside bakery staff serves up amazing food while asking, “Why are you so tan?”

Oregon has a reputation for fierce localism, but I’ve never encountered it. I’ve seen firing spots reel off unridden, heaving barrels bottom out into harbor mouths, and been greeted by the few local wave riders with warmth and affection.

Possibly due to the fact that I have no desire to don a thick rubber suit and test my mettle. More likely due to the fact that many of surfing’s truths are little more than pragmatic lies. “Oh yeah, it’s full of sharks and the locals will eat your babies. You should totally stay down south.”

I’m always polite, because I figure everyone is armed. I’m treated with hospitality wherever I go, excepting the one well-dressed older woman who screamed “Faggot!” in my wife’s face as we walked down the street in Portland.

“How did she know?” I wondered.

Kai Lenny caught this wave in Oregon in 2018. We promise the surf connection to this story is coming soon.

Taken as a whole the residents’ philosophy tends toward libertarian rather than conservative. That’s six of one and half a dozen of another, as far as I’m concerned.  ‘Rules are for other people’ being the uniting factor.

It is a place where you can do pretty much whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t fuck with someone else’s scene. And even when you do, it appears that the response of local authorities is to typically say, “You guys work it out among yourselves.”

That seems to be the situation with the Nelscott Reef Pro and Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic. Two opposing organizations have been duking it out of the right to privatize a swell for the past few years- with one group holding permits while another says, “Fuck off, we’re running our own event. On the same day. Suck it, boners!” Or whatever.

The man with the primary permit is John Forse and his website,, features a Hall of Shame in which he takes shots at his opponents. It appears the rift dates back to a 2006 argument, the root of which remains unclear.

Further unclear is whether the event is actually running.  Despite claims that both organizations would be running today, March 10th, the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic lacks any sort of live stream, or other real-time coverage.

On the other hand, the renegade comp, the Nelscott Reef Pro, has Shannon Reporting on scene, though as I type this the “live stream” consists of the following.

Which brings us back to my first question: what the fuck is going on in Oregon?

The short answer: I have no idea.


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