Monday, January 23, 2012

Clover Point Waves (1.21.12)

I've often been told that when the McKenzie River (OR) gets really high flows that Clover Point forms a series of huge surf waves, and is arguably the best play in Oregon. However, since I much prefer creeking, I seem to always end up on the steep stuff since the flows of Clover and the nearby creeks typically coincide with each other. This past weekend things were different, as most everything was blown-out except for Lake Creek and Clover. Since I’ve run Lake Creek many times before, I opted for the latter and made some phone calls to rally the troops. Soon enough, we had a fairly good sized group. Since it’s only about 45 minutes from Eugene, we decided to get some extra sleep and opted for a late start, leaving town around 1pm.

The gauge was reading just under 5’ and was dropping pretty steadily. My understanding is that the best flows are between 4.5’ and 5.5’, although I’ve heard it’s also good up to about 6’. As we drove past the waves, they definitely looked sweet through the car windows, and I was getting pretty fired-up to see what they had to offer.

The gauge used for Clover. On this day we had between
5' and 4.5' as it dropped throughout the day

As Roman and I pulled into the Mom’s Pies parking lot, we saw Lofty and Tyson, who were the first ones to arrive. While changing, Joe, Matt, and Eric showed up, rounding out the crew for the day. One-by-one we put-on and headed the 1/8 mile or so downstream to the giant waves. Since I had crammed a bunch of camera gear in my little playboat (not tied in of course), I decided to play it safe and skirt the waves before pulling into the staging eddy. Once there I quickly unpacked my boat and threw the gear on shore. After taking a few pics I got back in my boat, slid into the water, and got ready for my turn.

The Clover waves. Note that the one in front of Tyson and Roman
(just off the rock) is actually the entrance wave-hole that is used
to get on the main ones in the middle of the river.

Once again, Clover is actually a set of three waves that form at high water. The first two are stacked back to back with the third sitting back just a bit. The third is also more of a wave hole and can get pretty rowdy if you get into the meat of it. That said, the first is the most targeted with the second being a good backup in the event that you flush off. It should also be noted that getting onto the waves takes a bit of effort. Basically, one must surf a small, and somewhat sticky, wave-hole at the top of the eddy to get into the main flow; once there you will line up while floating backwards until the pile of the wave smashes against your back and shoots you forward down the face of the wave – this is probably my favorite part of the surf!

Joe drops into the entrance wave-hole to get to the main waves

The author drops down the face of the wave after droppin' in

Once you’ve settled onto the wave (the first one), be ready for a fun bouncy ride -- this wave is very dynamic. It took me a few rides to start feeling comfortable and relax my nerves a bit, as it’s a pretty intimidating amount of power. If you are a good playboater (which I’m not), you should be able to throw a pretty good variety of aerial tricks. I was just happy to carve and throw spins, which were remarkably easy thanks to the large pile at the top and strong shoulders at the edges. Once again, as you come off the top wave keep it pointed upstream to catch the one right behind it, which is also quite fun to surf, although not as retentive or clean.

Matt carves it up on the first wave

Tyson takes his turn on the first wave

Aaron (Lofty) works the first wave.
Notice the shoulders and pile -- Awesome!

Roman looks on as Lofty sets up between moves

Matt throws a nice blunt on the first wave

Lofty gets a nice bounce -- pretty common on the first wave.

Eric digs in for a nice ride

The author mid spin. The large pile made staying on pretty easy.

Roman on wave #1

The last wave, as stated above, is pretty burly, but at the same time, can really give up some good rides. To get on this one you really need to come off the second on surfer's right (river-left). There is one more small hole directly after the third – although it’s not really surfable, it could mess with you while rolling up.

Aaron tries out the third wave

Aaron gets some spins in the meaty
part of #3 as Roman drives for the eddy

Everyone in the group was having a blast, but getting pretty tired at the same time. It’s amazing how much energy it took to get out to the wave as well as stay in control once you were on it. This of course can make it tough to roll back up, especially since the water is so chaotic down below – even the swirly water blocking the eddy can throw you around a bit. We actually had a swim in the group, which ended up being fairly long but relatively safe, since there are no real hazards downstream other than the fast moving current.

All in all, I’m super glad I checked out these waves, and will certainly be returning from time to time. They offer opportunities for tricks way beyond my abilities, but even with my limited arsenal of moves it was great fun, albeit a little intimidating at first.

Footage from our session at Clover:

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