Friday, August 30, 2019

Surfing Oregon - Why, When, Where?

Surfing the Oregon Coast Oregon is a cold-water surf haven. Credit: Surfline

A cold, wild coast that can regularly generate numbers like 24-foot swells at 8-second intervals with 100mph wind gusts and a sea temperature of 46 degrees, Oregon is neither for the faint of heart nor the physically frail. But it does have some damn good surfing, and for all levels despite its notoriety. 

Pronounced “organ,” by locals, the coastal state has over 360 miles of Pacific shoreline with some pretty phenomenal breaks. All levels of surfing can be found on the coast, and the beaches are very accessible. Many breaks are located at state or city parks with a range of facilities. Many even have web-cams watching the surf. 

The beautiful coastal state of Oregon has all types of surf to choose from, from soft beginner beach breaks to hyper-advanced reef breaks with 20ft+ swells. All of it up for grabs. But be warned, Oregon surfers are known to be territorial and being knowledgable of proper surf etiquette is advised.

Oregon Coast 360 miles of Oregon coast and delicious surf. Credit: UO Blogs

Why surf here? Isn’t the water cold and the weather rainy? Yes, this is true. There are also sharks. It’s Oregon. But that’s why we like it. Because it is not California or Florida meaning that it doesn’t have near as many people surfing there. Its beaches are extremely accessible too - it's probably one of the most beach accessible states in the nation. It also has a very consistent surf in the falls and winters that generate big, fun swells. It has a lot of beginner surf that’s great for learning and some pretty lovely beaches overall. On a good day (in between rain storms) the surfing here can be as fun and rewarding as any surf spot in the world. 

In regards to the water, how cold is cold? Most of the year the waters in Oregon hover between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, so make sure to surf with a thick wetsuit, booties, gloves, and a hood - the whole shebang. 

A beach in OregonOne of the many beautiful Oregon beaches. Credit: The Outbound Collective

When is the best time to surf here? Conditions in Oregon are in their prime in the fall. Autumns here bring with them ideal conditions for surfing due to less wind, warmer waters, and a consistent surf. The average temperature of the water in September/October is 55 degrees Fahrenheit and the waves are typically more consistent this time of year as compared to the summer months. Winters are great too if you can brave the cold temps and heavy rainfall. 

The beaches of Oregon
A map of Oregon's beaches. Credit: Oregon Surf

Where to surf? The Oregon coast is divided into 3 sections or zones for surfing. Each zone has plenty of beaches for a variety of skill levels.  A surfing guide of Oregon’s best known and accepted surf spots can be found here atoregonsurf.comThe list is long.

For quick reference, here's a list of the zones and popular beaches within them:

The North Coast- Some popular North coast spots include Seaside Cove, Indian Beach, Smuggler's Cove, Oceanside, and Pacific City.

The Central Coast- Central coast spots include Lincoln City, Otter Rock, Agate Beach, South Beach State Park, and Florence South Jetty.

The South Coast- Coos Bay, Battle Rock, Hubbard Creek, Nesika Beach, and Brookings.

A word from the wise: even though a spot claims to be "fine" for all levels, it can still be exceptionally dangerous in big surf. Do your research PLEASE. A seemingly beginner-friendly beach can still produce sketchy conditions given the day, and helicopter rescues happen here every year. So regardless of where you decide to surf in Oregon, please know your limits and be up to date with the area you intend to surf and its conditions that day. You want to be safe but overall you want to have a good time. See you out there!

Surfing the Oregon Coast Grab your wetsuit and come surf the Oregon Coast! Credit: Surfline

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

How To Avoid A Shark Attack When Surfing

Shark attacks are no joke. Don't get eaten by a shark. Credit: Pinterest

Let’s face it - sharks are scary animals. Sure, they are often misunderstood and get a bad rap since they are incredibly vital to the ecosystem and oceanic food chain and may not mean to attack surfers in particular. Sometimes we just look like food, dressed in our wet suits on our boards appearing as sea lions. But regardless, that doesn’t stop them from being big, frightening marine beasts that can still kill you.

Provided is a guide of how to not get eaten by a shark the next time you're out catching some good waves in shark-infested waters: 

Watch out for sharks Surf at your own risk. Credit: Cape Cod Chronicle

Look for warning signs. If a shark has been spotted in your area recently, be wary of the danger. Often beaches will have signs telling if a shark has been spotted in the area recently. Don't ignore the signs.
Be wary of surfing at night and at dawn. These are prime hours for when sharks feed. Might be wise to not be surfing when it's dinner time for the sharks that may or may not be in your area.
Surf in groups. Sharks are more likely to attack individuals surfing alone than groups. Plus, the more surfers there are in the water, the lower the chance that you will be the one attacked.

Be wary of river mouths and channels. These are areas where food and fish flow out into the ocean making them feeding grounds for sharks
.
Be careful surfing after recent rainfall. Rainfall causes the water to be murky. The low visibility will make it more difficult for sharks to determine whether you're a human or their next meal.

Don't wear anything bright or shiny in color when you're surfing. Shiny jewelry or bright colors can resemble the scales of fish AKA shark food. Colors to be especially wary of wearing are bright colors like yellow, orange, or any high-contrast color.

Sharks are attracted to blood but can't smell it from a mile away. It's a myth that sharks can smell a single drop of blood from a mile away. Credit: Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Don't surf if you're bleeding. This should be a no brainer, as sharks are attracted to blood. It is a myth that sharks can smell a single drop of blood from a mile away. But regardless, they are still attracted to it. If you have an open wound or it is that certain time of the month, please wait until you are healed or when it is safe to get back out into the water.

Stay away from dead animals or fish. Sharks will often feed on dead animals even if they are not the ones that killed it. If you see a dead animal or fish, stay as far away from it as possible.

Sharks are commonly found in Florida.
A migration of sharks along a sandbar in Florida. Credit: CBS News

Beware of underwater drop-offs or sandbars. Often, these provide ideal conditions for surfing. However, they are also known shark hangout areas, so just keep that in mind.

Avoid fishing boats or fishermen. Fishermen use bait to attract fish. Sharks are fish. Sharks also eat fish. Don't be caught at the wrong place at the wrong time and get mistaken for bait.

Get out of the water IMMEDIATELY if there is a shark sighting. Do they really need to scream "SHARK!!!" twice?

Great White Shark Credit: Ryan Johnson

Now that you're properly spooked and have a good idea of how to avoid getting attacked by a shark, here's a positive note. According to HowStuffWorks, Professor Jeff Rosenthalfrom the University of Toronto says your chances of getting attacked by a shark are 1 in 9 million. Less than 1 American per year is killed by a shark. Your odds of getting killed by a shark are more like 1 in 400 million.

Fun facts: Over half of all of the world's shark attacks take place on the beaches of Florida. The chances of getting attacked by a shark at a Florida beach are 1 in 430,000 and the odds of getting killed are 1 in 36 million. Also, there are more deaths from coconuts falling on people's heads than there are shark attacks every year!

Coconuts are silent killers.Coconuts are more deadly than sharks! Credit: Compare.com

Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Amazon Fires - What to Believe?

The Amazon Is on fire Credit: slate.com

Parts of the Amazon rainforest are on fire and that is a fact. But the media frenzy about the fires has gotten so out of hand recently that misinformation and un-factual evidence is being spread almost as quickly as the fires themselves. So, in an attempt to clear some of that up, here are some facts about the Amazon supported by science.

A real-time map of the fires burning the Amazon.
A real-time map of the fires in the Amazon provided at Fast Company. It is refreshed every 12 hours. Credit: Fast Company

There are currently 72,843 fires ravaging the Amazon as you read this. Although wildfires are common to take place during the dry season (August-November), the amount of wildfires is up by 83%from last year.

The Amazon is the world's largest tropical rainforest covering 2.72 million square miles, an area roughly the size of the United States. It makes up 40% of South America and nearly 2/3rds of the entire rainforest is found in Brazil.
Brazil's indigenous people fighting the fires Brazil's indigenous people swear to fight for Amazon 'to the last drop of blood.' Credit: Reuters

It is one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet that is estimated to have 16,000 different plant species and 390 billion individual treesIt is home to 400-500 indigenous groups, about 50 of which have never been contacted by the outside world.

The canopy of the rainforest. The rainforest canopy. Credit: Dissolve

Over half of the known species in the rainforest are thought to live in the canopy. The extinctions of rainforest species are directly linked to fires and deforestation.

Leonardo Dicaprio made a statement about the Amazon fires earlier this week. Celebrity Leonardo Dicaprio made a statement about the Amazon fires earlier this week that was inaccurate. Credit: Global News Archive

The Amazon has been called "the lungs of the earth," by media outlets and celebrities such as CNN and Leonardo Dicapriostating that it produces 20% of all the oxygen that we breathe but this is not accurate. Despite the claims, the Amazon only produces about 6%of the world's oxygen according to Dr. Jonathan Foley, a global environmental scientist. Most of that oxygen is used up by the forest itself, too. This is because plants produce oxygen in a 1:1 ratio with carbon incorporated into the plant body. In other words, the consumption of oxygen by the forest equals the oxygen that has been produced. The majority of the earth's oxygen is actually produced by phytoplankton in the ocean.

A diagram of photosynthesis
How photosynthesis works. Credit: Smithsonian Science Education Center

70% of South America's GDP is produced in areas that receive rainfall or water from the Amazon. The Amazon influences rainfall patterns as far away as the United States. This is an especially concerning issue as fires mean fewer trees which means less rain.

Deforestation is happening in the Amazon at an alarming rate. Deforestation of the Amazon is a global threat to humanity. Credit: BBC

Cattle ranching accounts for roughly 80% of deforestations in the Amazon. Along with industrial pollution, rampant deforestation in South America and elsewhere has significantly increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

A diagram of the Amazon's carbon uptakeCarbon uptake by the Amazon rainforest. Credit: Phys.org

The Amazon is regarded as vital in the fight against global warming due to its ability to absorb carbon from the air.  Without rainforests, CO2 would no longer be transformed through photosynthesis. Crops that replace forests only absorb a fraction of CO2 compared to natural rainforests.

Those are the facts. In the political sphere regarding the issue, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro recently gave a speech stating that NGO's may be the culprits for starting the fires. He said that they may have started the fires as an attempt to make the Brazilian government look responsible. He gave no evidence for his claims.

Jair Bolsonaro the 38th president of Brazil. Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro gave a speech earlier this week blaming NGO's for the fires. Credit: DW

“Everything indicates” that NGOs were going to the Amazon to “set fire” to the forest, Bolsonaro said in a Facebook Live broadcast on Wednesday morning. When asked if he had evidence to back up his claims, he said he had “no written plan,” adding “that’s not how it’s done.”
Much controversy has followed the president's speech as he as already been ridiculed by citizens of Brazil and the EU for cutting funding towards environmental protection programs and other NGO's shortly after taking office earlier this year.

Who really knows how these fires started? By now, this should be beside the point. The fires have been burning for weeks and the end is still not in sight. Our greatest focus as people of this planet who enjoy living here should be to put them out and keep battling climate change. We need the Amazon rainforest to keep other ecosystems in check by suppling adequate rainfall and absorbing carbon from our atmosphere. If we don't, the implications will be grave.

Help the Amazon Save the Amazon. Credit: Axios

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

More Skiers In The Backcountry, But Less Deaths - A Small Win For Skiing

Backcountry skiing fatalitiesThe backcountry skiing fatality rate has declined in recent years. Image: Mountain Culture Magazine

Over the past 20 years, the number of people skiing in the backcountry has increased exponentially. Gone are the days when you find yourself touring alone in your favorite backcountry zone on a weekend in the mountains. Now, the backcountry lots are filling up mid-week.

You would think that with more people skiing the backcountry, more people would be dying out there, right? Avalanches are inherently dangerous, easy to trigger and claim lives every year. However, recent studies show that this is simply just not the case. The backcountry is claiming fewer fatalities every year – great news for backcountry skiers and the ski industry as a whole.

Always know before you go Not being familiar with terrain or conditions in the backcountry is the most common way to trigger an avalanche. Image: ABC News

If backcountry-related fatalities were to increase proportionally to the growing number of skiers that are skiing it, we’d have seen over 200 deaths last year. Fortunately, and to our surprise, only 27people were killed in the backcountry last year – not 200. 27 deaths is still too high a number in my opinion, but you got to hand it to us – us skiers are doing something right out there in the mountains as we are losing less of our friends and family to avalanches every year. We’re becoming smarter and safer in the backcountry. But how or why, exactly?

To understand how we are conscientiously preventing more deaths in the backcountry, we must first understand why more people are choosing to ski the backcountry in the first place.
Backcountry skiing is wildly fun. Skiing out of bounds is much more of a thrill than skiing inside of a resort when you factor in the increased chance of death due to prevalent avalanche danger. It’s adrenaline inspiring and addicting.

Lift tickets are getting more expensiveLift ticket prices are going up every year. Image: Snowboarder Magazine

Ski resort prices are inflating. With lift prices exceeding $200 at Vail Ski Resort, and prices being up to $180 at popular resorts such as Deer Valley and Breckenridge, it can be argued that skiing is transitioning into more of a high-class, luxury sport.

Most skiers and not part of the upper-class of society, even though we’d all like to be. Sure, there are still ski areas that try their best to offer affordable lift passes, but to compete with big ski conglomerates like Vail Mountain Resort and Alterra Mountain Company they have to increase their lift ticket prices as well. And these prices are only continuing to rise. It’s textbook inflation in the ski industry.

A massive lift line
A lift line from hell.

Ski areas are becoming more crowded. This is because more people are skiing than ever before. In 2016, nearly 12 million people skied at ski areas in the United States alone! However, in the sanctuary of the backcountry, you will not see near as many crowds and there certainly won’t be any lift lines. So, it’s not too hard to imagine why more people are transitioning into skiing the backcountry from resort skiing.

So how exactly are we decreasing the number of backcountry fatalities each year even though the number of people skiing the backcountry is continually increasing? I believe that the availability of avalanche forecasting resources plays a major role in this. Today, the outreach of programs that are available to the general public and information about snow conditions and avalanche forecasting is the best it has ever been.
Utah Avalanche Center Image: VEBOWithin a few seconds, you can log into an app or website, read a report from an expert avalanche safety officer who was out that morning, and finds out just how the mountains are looking that day. The amount of avalanche reporting services nowadays is uncanny and almost every mountain range in the continental united states has a forecasting service that reports snow conditions and avalanches every day during the winter. For instance, living near the Wasatch mountains- which host unlimited amounts of backcountry access and incredible ski terrain - I am checking The Utah Avalanche Center every day for snow reports and weather conditions during the winter.

Here’s how it works: each day UAC forecasters arrive at the office to report about snow conditions in the Wasatch and surrounding mountain ranges at 4:00 am. First, they record an initial phone message summarizing avalanche conditions by 5:00 am. Then, a detailed advisory is distributed by phone message, radio PSAs, email, and website by 7:30 a.m. Updates are sent out throughout the day as conditions change. The Utah Avalanche control center is just one forecasting service among dozens that help to promote safety in the backcountry and actively reduce fatalities.

Digging snow pits is a good way to test the quality of the snow and the potential for an avalanche. Digging a snow pit (as shown) is a method to test the potential for a slide and is taught in a beginner avalanche safety course. Image: Snow Safety & Consulting

Another driving factor that has been shown to promote safety in the backcountry and reduce deaths is the tremendous availability of avalanche safety programs and courses available to skiers everywhere. We are seeing more avalanche safety courses being provided in major cities and skiing hubs around the nation than ever before - and more skiers are taking them. These courses are also much more available than they used to be.

 For example, at the University of Utah– a public university with 24,635 undergraduates located in the heart of Salt Lake City, a major skiing hub – you can take avalanche safety courses for college credit. These courses will attain credit that goes towards almost any degree, as most bachelor's degree programs require that you take at least one or two science-based classes as general education requirements. What better way to fulfill that credit than by gaining some insight on how to be a safer and smarter skier in the backcountry?

More often than not, free avalanche safety courses are offered to if you catch them at the right time and place. That’s right, I said free. This incentivizes people to take the course and increase their awareness about avalanches, especially younger aged skiers with lower incomes. Plus, who doesn’t love free stuff?

Social media: We live in a wild time to be alive. This is an era with social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube where you can instantly know what every one with an account is doing, feeling or talking about. With backcountry safety organizations promoting safe skiing habits or marketing courses through these platforms, their outreach is massive. This raises awareness, and it raises it in a way like never before.

Avalanches kill more backcountry skiers than anything Avalanches are the number one killer of skiers in the backcountry. Image: GearJunkie

If an avalanche happened a decade or two ago, it would take some time for people outside of the immediate circle of whom it affected, to hear about it. News of such a thing would be spread first by word of mouth, and then maybe by T.V., radio, or newspaper. Sure, news of the avalanche would still get to a lot of people, but it wouldn’t get to them anywhere near as fast as if you posted an image or video about it on your social media platforms that could potentially be seen by thousands of followers almost instantaneously.

As the number of skiers skiing in the backcountry perpetually increases for a variety of reasons (my favorite being that backcountry skiing is just plain awesome), so does the awareness of its dangers. It has to. Otherwise, more people would die, and that is not what we as skiers want. We want to go out there, find a good line, enjoy the mountains, challenge ourselves, and have a good time. And if more people are going to be doing this, more people are going to have to be safe; because the more people skiing in the backcountry increases the risk of slides and fatalities.

But, for now, we can give ourselves a little credit and take this one as a win. Because by keeping the number of our beloved from dying relatively low, and actively working to lower that number, we’re obviously doing something right. Let’s keep it that way.

Backcountry fatalities Always know before you go. Image: Mallard Mountain Lodge

Sunday, August 4, 2019

How to Be More Creative: In Life and on Skis

 Creativity and skiing go hand in hand. Creativity is the heart of skiing. Image: Youtube.com

Three ways to harness creativity based off of neurological research by Dr. David Eagleman, a
neuroscientist and New York Times bestselling author:

Dr. David Eagleman, neuroscientist Dr. David Eagleman. Image: The Daily Beast

1. Try new things
2. Push boundaries
3. Don't be afraid of failure

Buttering skier Buttering is a good way to add a little spice to your life. Image: Newschoolers

Trying new things increases the connections between neurons in your brain and provides perspective, according to studies done by Eagleman. Now apply this to your skiing. Feel like you're constantly hitting the same lines and tricks, or that your abilities are plateauing? Try something new or something different. Dabble with some butters. How about a tree tap? Ooh, maybe a spin to go with it. The more you try on the hill the more you will learn and the better skier you will become.

Cody Townsend pushing boundariesSkiers like Cody Townsend are constantly pushing their boundaries and constantly improving their skiing ability. Image: The Colorado Sun

Pushing boundaries will take you out of your comfort zone and into the creative space. Uncomfortable situations are just situations you are not used to and can be learned from. See a line or cliff band that you know would be fun to send, but it's slightly above your skill level? Does just thinking about it kind of make your stomach turn? Oh yeah, then that's how you know it's real. Hit it.

Failure is an essential part of the creative process
If at first you don't succeed, try again. Image: Snowbrains

We tend to run from failure but it is trial and error that provides us with the best learning experiences. Failure will actually come to our aid in the creative process. Don't be afraid to try new tricks. And when you fall, get back up and just keep trying until you stomp that sucker.

We live in an age of unparalleled human creativity. There's no telling what the world will look like twenty years from now, let alone the ski game. Just a couple decades ago we didn't even have powder skis and the biggest trick around was a switch 540, which it stayed for years before creative geniuses like Shane McConkey arrived on the scene. Now, look where the industry is.

Now, we have people like Henrik Harlaut doing butter-triples and little kids sending big Alaskan spines that no one would have even dreamed of hitting not that long ago. And as our technological capabilities as humans continue to advance, we don't even have names for the jobs we have yet to create.

So as we enter the rapidly changing future with limitless creative potential, how will you contribute? How far will you take your skiing ability?

Henrik is creative E'dollo - creativity guru. Image: Newschoolers