By Kurt Madar
Pilot staff writer
It's spring in Brookings, and the great outdoors is calling. Enthusiasts are hitting the waves, riding the trails and paddling their way to an adrenaline-soaked bliss that banishes winter's doldrums with cold water, fresh air and exertion.
"There are some great trails for mountain biking," said local mountain biker Jared Elsemore. "I ride during the winter, but, really, when the weather gets nice it's easier to get out there."
Jan Sirchuk is a surfer who has been paddling into waves since 1966 when he was 8 years old, and surfing in Brookings since 1992. He considers Brookings to be a great place to surf for those who can handle "cold water, windy conditions, and unfriendly currents."
"It's not like El Salvador," Sirchuk said. He just got back from an eight-day trip surfing the break in Las Flores where the waves were "at least overhead, most of the time double overhead." He hastened to add, "Don't get me wrong, Brookings gets good, it's just so random."
Unlike surfing Meccas such as Las Flores and Santa Cruz, CA, where waves are formed in response to immovable reef and rock, Brookings surf spots are created mainly by sand bars. The result can be unpredictable due to the unstable nature of sand. Sand bars can shift or even disappear, which makes each well-formed wave more precious and unusual.
According to Sirchuk, the best waves hit during fall, winter and spring. "It all but shuts down in the summer, though you can still get some rides."
Married for twenty years, he has four kids who all surf, or have surfed, including his eight-year-old son
"The best part of surfing Brookings is the really great group of locals. It's a really good group of people. I mean, there's just no vibe in the water at all," Sirchuk said, and then confessed that he sometimes goes down to the beach just to chat. "It's a surf club for men."
Tall, lean, and weathered, Sirchuk presents a laconic, approachable attitude that supports his claim that local surfers are a great group. Their concern for each other is also something to admire especially after Sirchuck suffered a minor heart attack a year-and-a-half ago after leaving the water. "Now all the guys take care, and check up on me," Sirchuk said. "One time I was the only guy left in the water, and I noticed one of my friends all packed up but still standing on the beach. I knew he was just going to stick around until I made it back in, so I called it quits for the day."
John Day is a 68-year-old kayaker who has lived in the Brookings area for six years.
"I moved here in the fall of 2002 and kept looking at the ocean. I always wanted to get into kayaking," Day said. "I paddled out by myself for a year I spent a lot of time alone and scared."
Day is now part of a group of sea kayakers who call themselves Sunday Services and paddle every Sunday regardless of conditions. According to Day, the Brookings area is phenomenal for sea kayaking.
"One of the best paddles is going north out of Whaleshead. For five miles north of the park, the coast line is riddled with sea caves and sea grottos galore," Day said, adding the caution, "it's not a place to launch in adverse conditions though, and the sea cave grotto stretch is really only safe on real low surf days."
Day also likes Trinidad Beach, where it's possible to launch no matter the conditions. He has paddled the whole stretch of South Coast from Smith River to the Arch, a natural sea arch that is about five miles north of Whaleshead beach, though "not all at once of course!"
"Most of the white-water kayaking is a ways away," said Day, who is open water certified to teach by the American Canoe Association, and likes to white-water kayak as well. The closest white-water is the on the north and south forks of the Smith River in Northern California. Further afield, good white-water kayaking can be found on rivers like the Rogue, the Klamath and the Trinity.
Jared Elsemore started as a surfer, but several years ago he traded a board for a Harrow mountain bike.
"I love being out there," he said. "I like the coastal trails the best. There are some choices up the Chetco, but I really like the coastal trails like around Whaleshead and especially Indian Sands. Indian Sands is just so cool. It opens up into a carved landscape that is actually a naturally formed mountain bike park."
Elsemore, 23, is married and works for a landscaping company and for Sessions Surf Co. in Brookings. He lived in the Brookings area from age two to eighteen, and has lived in Eugene off and on for the last 4.5 years.
Lean and wiry, with a ready grin and quick laugh, he makes it easy to get just as excited about hitting the trails as he is. "I like to work hard, then take time off and play hard. That way, I don't have to worry about money when I'm outdoors."
Elsemore is planning a backpacking trip up the Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River, and plans to buy a couple of mountain boards essentially off-road skate boards in the hopes of hitting the natural terrain park at Indian Sands and other downhill trails.
According to the Oregon State Park Service, it is legal to mountain bike on many of the trails in the area, but bikers should use extreme caution and watch for hikers. The trails are steep and narrow, so there isn't a lot of room, and in many places they drop off very quickly.
For people interested in trying their hand at surfing, kayaking or biking, there are several shops in town that rent everything from bikes and kayaks to wetsuits and surf boards. The Escape Hatch, 642 Rail Road Avenue, rents it all and can be contacted at (541)-469-2914. Sessions Surf Co., 800 Chetco Avenue, rents wetsuits and surf boards and can be reached at (541)-412-0810.
The most important thing to remember about these active outdoor sports is that though fun and worth trying, they generally involve some level of risk and so require sound judgment, proper gear and a level head.