Rob Casey is the owner of SUP school Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle, co-founder for the PSUPA and is the author of two paddling guides.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Freighter Wave Surfing Locations on Puget Sound

Freighter wave surfing, what??  Yep, some of us have been surfing some pretty nice waves on Puget Sound for over a decade, nearly 3-4 hours from the ocean.  Of course everyone's heard of the tanker wave surfing in Texas featured on Dana Brown's Step into Liquid. Same thing here, but no need to tow-in.

It's not known or a popular activity as many don't think it exists, are too impatient to wait for the usual freighter wave frequency - about one set of waves.  But here in Seattle, the ocean is 3-5hrs away depending on where you choose to go. Like any surf it can be flat, blown out or too big which is a bummer after a long drive.  We do on occasion get up to one hour of continous waist high waves, which is always pretty cool.

Finding where waves break in inland waterways depends on finding beaches which resemble surf breaks on the coast - point breaks, beach breaks, etc. Look for beaches which have sandy beaches which extend out at low tide. See if you area has aerial photo sites of local beaches. Google maps works as well. For Puget Sound, try this one, Here.  Then use Marine Traffic or similar sites to track shipping traffic. For us in Seattle, we need a 17-23kt freighter, container ship, and various other boats to make it happen.  Even fast moving recreational boats can put off a sweet wave.  Like any break, keep hitting it until you get it figured out, your persistence will pay off. At my favorite spot, I need a low tide, little wind. Season is late January to September.

We also surf tug waves, but those are in deep water, and that's for another posting.

Puget Sound breaks for freighter / container / Navy / etc waves...

Seattle area:
- Duwamish Head
- West Point
- Ballard - across from Ray's on Magnolia side.
- Meadow Point / Golden Gardens - waist high only.
- Point Wells, Edmonds.
- Des Moines Beach Park (north of pier).
- Point Robinson, Vashon.
- Brace Point (small)
- Boeing Pt (small)

Haven't tried it but these probably break:
Dash Pt, Saltwater St Park, Rolling Bay; Restoration Pt

Other spots I've seen break...
- Marrowstone Island - Marrowstone Head north of lighthouse; a point south of Ft Flagler.
- North Beach and Pt Wilson, Port Townsend.
- Eglon Beach, north of Kingston.
- Eagle Beach, San Juan Island.
- False Bay, San Juan Island - a friend caught a long ride here on a prone paddleboard. Most likely swell.

Those that don't work:
- Pt No Pt, Three Tree Pt, Carkeek Park, Alki Point.
- Friends in Vancouver BC say they haven't seen waves there.

Here's one of a friend surfing our Ballard wave last summer (2012).






5 comments:

Top Ten What said...

Ive had limited success on Vashon which I attribute to the fact that the frieghters are often slowing way down as they approach the Tacoma docks. It seems much less predictable than the waves you have been catching near Ballard
Pt. Heyer (KVI beach) has a nice sandbar that extends way out from the beach and is a good spot for both local wind swell and freighter waves.
That being said, I have seen some shoulder high rollers in the middle of Tramp Harbor. Its just so variable.

Top Ten What said...

Rob - weird coincidence after my last post. I happened to go down to Pt Robinson today and here comes a freighter barreling down on Tacoma full speed, and I think, Im going to get a great wave and dis-prove that comment I just left on Robs blog. But that early afternoon southerly was still pretty strong and knocked that sucker down pretty hard, leaving not much but some confused seas. If we had a northerly going, I think it would have been pretty good.

Rob Casey SUP Instructor, Writer & Photographer said...

it's definitely hit and miss even whe we time the boats and tide levels. one day will be big the next, nothing. if you figure it out by paying attention to the conditions eventually you' be running to pt robinson at the rigth time for an epic session.

jessie from hb said...

I never thought about that. How often do you get a wave?

Rob Casey - SUP Instructor, Photographer & Guidebook Writer said...

Jessie - as often as the boats come and the tides/winds are appropiate for any given location. It is frequent enough that I teach a freighter wave surfing class Wed & Fri in spring-summer. Pick a spot that looks good, then follow marine traffic to determine which boats break best and at what tide levels. take my freighter wave class and i can fill you in more. www.salmonbaypaddle.com cheers. Rob