Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Neils - Mckenzie River, OR (11.24.11 & 11.26.11)

As any of my boating buddies will tell you, I by no means consider myself a playboater; however, I do like to hit the local play spots from time to time to work on boat control and roll practice. My skills basically consist of front surfing, back surfing, flat spinning, and some crude cartwheels --even so, I seem to always have a good time regardless and typically paddle away feeling pretty pooped.

One of the best play spots close to Eugene (less than an hour away) is a wave on the McKenzie River known as “Neils”. This wave is in at a good level for many days during the winter season and is hardly ever crowded, which is pretty typical based on the relatively small boating community in the area. On this Thanksgiving weekend we had really good flows of between 3’ and 2.8’ on the Vida guage. It can be surfed as low as 2’ on the gauge, but it gets really shallow and isn’t that great. Much above 3’ it starts to gets pretty flushy and you really have to be on your stick to stay on while doing any tricks. That said, most agree that the optimal level is somewhere between 2.8’ and 2.6’.

The gauge used for Neils (found here)
(this report is from the 24th and 26th, 3' and 2.8' respectively)

To get to the wave we either put in at “Mom’s Pies” (an old, now vacant, pie stand) or at the bridge a ¼ mile downstream. For the takeout we usually use the Silver Creek boat ramp, located about 2 miles downstream of Mom’s. The wave itself is located about halfway down against the river-left bank and across from Eagle Rock Lodge, it should be pretty obvious when you get there.

After meeting at the Albertson’s on Hwy 126 at the edge of Springfield, we headed out for a quick session prior to our Thanksgiving Day plans. On this trip up we had Aaron Loft, Kristin Alligood, and me. When we got to the put-in bridge, we unloaded our boats and started to change into our gear. No sooner than dropping trou, a truck pulled up with a couple boaters who asked if we’d be interested in sharing a shuttle. The two boaters ended up being Macy and Amanda Burnham, both former Eugene residents who are now living in Reno. Apparently they were in town to be with family for the Thanksgiving weekend, and were itchin’ to visit some old boating haunts.

After gearing up we headed down to the wave. One we got there I got out to take some photos and setup for some video, and while doing this the others quickly settled into a groove. Before long I slid into the water and joined in on the fun. The level on this day was 3’, and it took some work to get on the wave, as well as stay on it. The real key is to paddle like hell and drive toward the pocket on surfer’s left, from which you can use to setup your next move. The far left shoulder is formed well enough to keep you on the wave, so long as you don’t edge hard against it. The main obstacle on the wave is the soft spot, located smack dab in the center -- this is where you will get blown off 90% of the time. You can work that area, but don’t hangout too long or you’ll be shown the door and sent to the back of the line.

As previously stated, I don’t have a large quiver of moves to pull out on the wave, so I basically just work on carving and flat spins, as well as chattin’ it up in the eddy while waiting my turn. I had never met Macy or Amanda before this day, so it was good to talk about the old boating community, as well as the current one. Eugene used to have a much more vibrant scene, and Macy was part of it and one of the top (pro) boaters at the time. This became very apparent from watching him on the wave, throwing blunts and backstabs with ease like it was still his backyard play spot. Here are some pics from all of us having a good time on the wave:

Macy prepares to drop in while Lofty looks on

Amanda digs in for the blunt

Aaron high on the pile

Macy works his way toward the pocket

Kristin sets up from the surfer's left shoulder

Macy sets up for a blunt

The author, mid flat spin
(photo by Aaron Loft)

Bobby (who showed up later) waits his turn

Bobby gettin' some wave time

After a couple of hours we all started to get pretty tired and needed to head out to prepare for our Thanksgiving dinner plans. After exchanging goodbyes with the Burnhams we headed our separate ways, but not before discussing the possibility of meeting up in the future for some more boating.

The following Saturday, Loft and I headed back along with Andy Carmichael, another Eugene local. This time the level was between 2.9’ and 2.8’. This small drop in flow made the wave a little stickier, which helped out quite a bit for staying on the wave. The soft spot was still there, but as long as you didn’t get too complacent it wasn’t too bad. Once again we spent a couple of hours on the wave and tired ourselves out pretty good. Here are some pictures of the wave at the slightly lower level:

Andy enters the wave

workin' the right side

Lofty driving hard

Andy takes the soft spot head on

Aaron digs in a rudder

Andy watches Loft from the staging eddy

Neils is good for back-surfing too!

If you enjoy playboating and you’re in the area when it’s at a good level, it’s well worth your while, and in my opinion, one of the best playspots in the state.

Here is a short video covering both days of boating: