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Nov-06-2010 23:07printcommentsVideo

Opening Day - South Reef, Oregon Goes XXL & Beyond (VIDEO)

50 foot+ waves in Oregon...

Salem-News.com
Eric Akiskalian riding a huge wave at South Reef, Oregon 2 Nov. 2010. Photo by Richard Hallman - FreelanceImaging.com

(LINCOLN CITY, Ore.) - When the buoys were forecasted to be 30' @ 18 seconds with light south east winds and a direct west hit for Lincoln City, Oregon, we knew it was going to be the biggest rideable swell to hit the Northwest coast in the past ten years.

Eric and Keith before surfing
Photo by Dexter Phoenix

This was the swell that Keith Galbraith and I had been waiting for, training for and we knew that South Reef would hold and deliver everything we wanted and then some! This swell was going to be the real deal.

Days prior the swell, I had many conversations with some of the elite big wave bravadoes, including weather and swell forecast guru, Mark Sponsler from Stormsurf.com who were all predicting this swell would be in the 50'-60' range with some possible rogue 70' sets.

The thought of waves that big was very exciting but there was one main issue, the south winds and foul weather the day before.

Man, the talk of waves that big was being thrown around like the wind we were dealing with. Little did we know, the swell and light wind forecasted for the following day would become a reality and not some overly hyped swell w/ trashed conditions.

photo: Craig Spjut

Eric Akiskalian photos by Richard Hallman - FreelanceImaging.com

The big question was, should Keith and I own up to our back yard break 'South Reef' that we have been pioneering over the past five years and pray she delivers the beasts that were forecasted while taking a gamble on the wind, or should we bow out and make the run for Mavz one day and Shark Park the next where we thought conditions would be better? It was a tough call but we finally made the decision as I was were driving from Washington to Oregon to take our chances on our local turf and take on South Reef.

Needless to say the drive down w/ my good friend Christian Gankema from Washington the day before was stormy, windy and raining and it was not looking so good. We arrived to Lincoln City after a short 5 hour drive, got a hotel room and hoped for the best. That night our crew got together for dinner at Jason's house to talk about water safety and the logistics of getting out of the river mouth and thru the massive beach break on our PWC's. Our other topic of discussion was the concern of left over bump from the heavy winds and rain and a potential very raw swell that was developed just over a thousand miles off the coast with 50' seas.

The following morning brought misty fog, surging masses of white water up to the launch ramp and a very unorganized roaring ocean from the storm the day before. Needless to say, the levels of stress and anxiety were over the top because we did not know what to expect. The good news was that the surf was giant and starting to build while the sets were exploding on the reef.

We decided to give the ocean a couple of hours to settle down, let the fog lift and then launch out of the river mouth and straight thru 25'-30' relentless beach break.

An Alaskan storm swell brought monster surf to Oregon beaches Tuesday; some of the world's top
big wave riders caught fifty foot plus waves at South Reef, located a mile offshore from Lincoln City. The
day began with heavy fog.

The crew used a boat ramp on the Siletz River to launch their watercraft; these high performance skis
are used to launch surfers like Erik Akiskalian into some of the biggest waves ever ridden.

Because of the raging surf conditions, launching from the beach seemed like a bad idea. So Eric, his tow
partner Keith Gailbraith and other surfers launched on the river, where they travel through Siletz Bay,
out the non navigable harbor mouth, and into the ocean, where they head north to catch the swell on the
South Reef.

Watching the video after the session, these big wave riders complimented each other's rides, and they
were stoked for having made it through a challenging session with no real major problems. - by Tim King

Once past the hectic beach break and out into what seemed like the middle of the ocean, we could see that this was the swell of the decade and was going to be XXL and beyond all day long. Quickly but cautiously, we motored over to South Reef, dropped the rope and wasted know time.

I flew into some giant waves right off the bat, set the bar and it was on amongst our crew. The waves I caught were like no other big waves I had ever ridden or experienced. I had never gone as fast as I did or dropped into waves that seemed to keep lifting to the sky while experiencing an endless drop.

I had a perfect session and truly rode the biggest waves of my life. I am still buzzing today like a spun out 4 year old on cotton candy.

As mother nature would have it, she delivered a straight west swell and a day that will go down in the history books as the biggestand heaviest South Reef ever surfed! This is the day that we finally had the opportunity to put South Reef on the maps, as a legitimate big wave spot not to be taken lightly.

While the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Paddle Event 'North Reef' was under way w/ solid 40' - 50' sets and a couple of closeouts, South Reef was all that and even more! It was a sight to see and now we know what South Reef can deliver. We now know it will hold a very big swell and possibly bigger then what we surfed and witnessed. With all the right conditions, swell direction, tide, winds etc. South Reef will one day deliver another monster swell and we plan to be there to experience it once again.

There is even an outer bombie reef a 1/2 mile further out known by the local fishermen as 'Tackel Buster Reef' that we knew existed and was well in the 60'-70' range but closing out 600 yards wide. These were the occasional rogue sets every hour or so and this is new territory that we hope to explore and pioneer one day. When we watched these rogue sets exploding on the outside we knew it was just a matter of moments before the monster set from Tebet would reform and come marching in.

The most amazing thing about our session is that we had an empty line up with just two-three teams in the water the entire day. Our crew consisted of long time Oregon tow partner and big wave surfer Keith Galbraith, my good friends Christian Gankema and Craig Spjut and local Oregon big wave surfers Dan Hassleschwert and Ollie Richardson along with Josh Solbach and Tim Andrew. For me personally, this was a monumental tow-in session in my career and one that I will never ever forget. Everything I have experienced and learned in the past ten years of chasing big waves around the globe came to full circle.

It was an amazing day shared amongst great friends and a day that will be remembered for the rest of our lives.


Big wave Surfer Eric Akiskalian of Gig Harbor, Washington, formerly from Santa Barbara, California, travels the world in search of the perfect wave; the biggest waves, in the world. Not just any surfer has what it takes to be a big wave towsurfer. Seriously huge huevos aside, a lot of training and understanding of ocean safety are required to tow into a 20’ barrel at Teahupo’ or a 60’ bomb at Mavericks. Towsurfer.com Founder/Owner is all that and a little more.

In October 2009 in Oregon, during the Nelscott Reef Tow-In Classic that is held each year in Oregon, Eric and his tow-in partner Keith Galbraith, were towsurfing giant waves at South Reef, and they caught one of the biggest waves ever ridden along Oregon’s coast. This ride, videotaped by Salem-News.com's Tim King, ultimately, was entered in the Ride of the Year Category for The 10th Annual Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.


Tim King: Salem-News.com Editor and Writer

Tim King is a lifelong surfer and former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Serving the community in very real terms, Salem-News.com is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 65 Salem-News.com writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can send Tim an email at this address: newsroom@salem-news.com


Dexter Phoenix has worked as a staff and freelance photographer since the mid-1990's and has a wealth of professional experiences on his resume. We welcome his presence to our staff and Salem-News.com.

This native of Great Britain moved to Los Angeles in 2007, where he photographed general news, general Interests, sports, freelance model photo work, and also stock images. In his career Dexter has had photos published: World wide, in many magazines and newspapers and online. Throughout the course of his career he has experience with technology of all imaginable types. In his career as a photographer Dexter has covered stories in Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, France, Mexico, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Turkey, Somalia, Tunisia, Algeria. Angola, Iran, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Colombia, United States. Email inquiries about photo purchase to Dexter at the above address.

You can email Dexter Phoenix, Salem-News.com Photographer/Reporter, at innocent_p0stcard@hotmail.com




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