Access to much of Washington's coast is attained by side roads, primitive lanes, or trails. The situation is complicated by the state's relatively arcane property laws, which have privatized huge tracts of shoreline to as much as a quarter mile below the mean high tide line, and the fact that the lion's share of tribal reservation land has been set aside in the more remote regions of the state, and that includes the rugged, storm-wracked coasts. The ocean is cold here, although the Japan (or Kuroshio) current moderates conditions somewhat.
Too far north to feel much in the way of Southern Hemi energy in the summer months (when the action is mostly windswell or weak area lows), during a typical winter, relentless storms bombard the Washington coast with huge swells, torrential rains, and wave-mangling S winds. There aren't too many places to hide, which is why many a Washington surfer seeks solace in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, in the windshadow of the Olympics and shoreline bluffs. The problem here is access. While there are a few highly regarded surf spots, entry is through tribal or private lands, and past indiscretions have generally made surfers personae non gratae.
Out on the coast, there are really only a couple of accessible, sheltered winter spots, and one of them (Westport) is the closest thing in the state to Surf City. Here, in the shelter of the jetty at the entrance to Grays Harbor, it's possible to enjoy clean swells, manicured by S winds that can whip the place into offshore perfection due to the E-W angle of the beach in this rare surf sanctuary.
On the north side of the Grays Harbor inlet is Ocean Shores, a seaside town with even less to offer surfers than Westport. However, the jetty at the north entrance to Grays Harbor creates a rare S wind block while leaving the way open to W and N swells. North of Ocean Shores, it's over 20 miles (32km) of sand and beachbreak until you get to Washington's lost treasure, Point Grenville. An anomaly on an otherwise almost pointless coast, Grenville is a big headland that hooks out into the Pacific, sheltering a large scoop of bay under its southern flank. Located within the lands of Quinault Indian Nation, Grenville was once Washington's version of Malibu, back in the first boom era of the early 1960s. Not that Grenville shows any similarity to Malibu in wave quality – this is not a classic, peeling point wave. But the rocky promontory interrupts the relentless NW winds and creates an eddy of atmospheric tranquility on this heavily thrashed coast. Depending on tide, there might be a half dozen spots working over a 2-mile (3.2km) stretch of glorious natural terrain. But the free-and-easy access of those days was lost. 'Kids painting graffiti, trash, parties – it all added up to the demise of a great family beach,' says Tom LeCompte, a veteran of those years, now a teacher up in Ketchikan, Alaska.
From Westport, it's mostly beachbreak south almost to the Columbia River. Not a lot of character – big beaches and nondescript sandbars open to the alternating surges of N and S winds, with only the occasional glassy or E wind day to set up some surfable peaks.