Incoming students are oriented to Pacific—and the Pacific Ocean—by learning to surf

Cape Lookout Beach on the Oregon coast is breath-taking, with a pale sand beach embraced to the north by a sloping, craggy slab of a mountain. It feels like a private beach, even though dozens of surfers are here most summer weekends. Easy-going waves roll in to the ever-so gently sloping beach—and further out, the ocean swells bigger and offers challenging, but relatively safe, surfing.

In late August, a group of incoming Pacific students had their first look at the beach—and, for many of them, their first attempt at surfing. The five-day trip was part of the annual pre-school “Voyages” organized by Outdoor Pursuits, and hosted the week before school starts as a means for new students to learn how to surf new challenges—in this case, to both literally and figuratively.

“It seemed to me that people were having a good time,” explained Anthropology and Sociology Associate Professor Aaron Greer, a facility adviser leading this particular trip. “I mean,” he continued, “it’s hard not to have fun when you’re on a surf trip, and you’re at a different beach every day.” He added, “we got lucky that the weather was nice and the surf was mellow throughout the trip.”

Professor Greer has been an active surfer for much of his life, and has led surfing voyages for incoming students for the past 14 years. Outdoor Pursuits offers eight different trips for incoming students—rafting, sea kayaking, even a “Portland urban adventure,” as well as the surfing trip, which traveled to four different beaches in five days and had 11 students along for the ride.

Greer explained that the purpose of the trip is not simply to teach people to surf, but to teach them about the support and resources and opportunities around them.

“One of our goals on these kinds of trips is to help students appreciate the different resources around them, which are both cultural and natural,” said Greer, who sports hair not too unlike Scooby Doo’s Shaggy, and an impressive goatee to boot.

In addition to going surfing, participants visited nearby coastal towns and explored hiking trails around Cape Lookout.

“We took them to new places every day; we spent a lot of downtimes not just surfing but playing beach games like spike ball and frisbee. We also spent a lot of time chilling in the sand,” said Greer. “It seemed to have gone very well,” he concluded, adding with a quip, “no one got eaten by a shark or anything, so I felt good about that.”

All told, 60 students participated in eight different pre-orientation trips, “Voyages,” hosted by Outdoor Pursuits. — Jeyuri De la Cruz

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