From Sand to Snow: A West Coast Road Trip

California to Oregon
September 2019 | Words and photos by Matt Foley (@mattrfoley) 

Near the end of summer, Klean Ambassador and photographer Matt Foley set out on a pretty epic West Coast road trip, with no real plan other than surfing, skating, snowboarding and exploring with friends in a hand crafted school bus. He shared stories and photos from the trip, fully-equipped with Klean Kanteens at his side of course.

Should we just pin it back to the coast and try and find waves? It was 11PM and the school bus we were calling home base was pulled over on the side of the road somewhere in the Columbia River Gorge, about 5 hours from the coast. It was day 11 of our 15 day road trip and we had just packed away the surfboards deep in the bus after what we thought was our last session hours before.

After receiving a rainy forecast, we were having second thoughts about our plans to splitboard Mt Hood the next day. Ryan said “Check the surf!”, it was going to be 9 ft so we proceeded to drive through the night in search of one last session before backtracking to Hood the next day. Our road trip primarily consisted of moments like these, a free pursuit of adventure and a feeling of the unknown for events even just hours ahead of us, all we cared about was chasing the best conditions.

Klean Ambassador Matt Foley and friends on a road trip from California to Oregon
Surfing, Skiing, Skateboarding, and living and adventure in a bus

Last fall myself and four friends embarked on a two week odyssey of the West Coast with one goal in mind. To surf, skate, snowboard, and rock climb as much as we could while traveling around in our buddy Kai’s hand crafted school bus. It was a trip that we had always talked about doing and with summer coming to an end, we knew this was our last opportunity to make it happen. After connecting with Klean Kanteen and receiving all the bottles we needed to be properly hydrated and caffeinated throughout the trip, we set out North from San Luis Obispo in search of adventure.

Our first stops along the 101 in Central California proved to be fruitful as a new swell was filling in. After 2 days of scoring waves driving up and down the Central Coast, but making no northern headway to our future destinations, we had to establish some ground rules. “North Only!” … until we needed to turn around then “South only!”. We did a little better job after establishing the rule, but not by much. After an obligatory sunset stop at the Golden Gate Bridge turned into a spontaneous surf session we drove through the night to arrive in the Redwoods of Northern California. Morale was high as we skated empty roads through the forest and hiked through pristine Redwood groves.

We continued north and by staying on the coast we had the luxury of checking most breaks along the way. With a heavy amount of swell in the water we were lucky enough to find epic surf the entire next week on our journey northward. Between waves we skated some of Oregon’s notorious skateparks, successfully ate our weight in fresh-caught crab, and hiked along the coast looking for surf.

Surfing is a different kind of pursuit in that part of the country. There’s no driving from spot to spot checking surf while staying in a heated car drinking coffee and listening to music. Checking almost any wave requires a hike through thick forest, taking sometimes hours just to get skunked. But that’s what this trip was all about, having no real plan but to get lost and see what we could find. We spent a few days exploring the Olympic Peninsula before heading to Mt. Hood to try and find some snow and complete one of the last objectives on our list.

We arrived in the Columbia River Gorge right in the midst of a huge rainstorm with Mt. Hood totally socked in. As explained above, we decided to pin it back to the coast for our final surf the following morning. Stoked on scoring arguably the best waves of the trip, we thought we might be able to squeeze in one last climb before sleeping at the base of Mt. Hood that night. “It’s only an hour north.” I said, as I explained to the others the location of our closest option to climb. With high levels of enthusiasm to climb but varying degrees of concern for breaking our now “South Only!” policy, we trekked North. To our surprise there was a punchy shallow beach break right in front of the wall we went to climb.

After a quick surf we got up on the wall to enjoy the sunset, journeying back to Hood immediately after to get prepped for the next morning. After a few miles hiking on dirt, we finally found snow and toured our way through clouds to our lunch spot where we had a picturesque view of the base of Hood. We rode through better than expected corn snow and followed the veins creeping through the rocks as we descended the mountain. With that descent, we completed our goal of surfing, skating, climbing, and snowboarding our way around the West Coast.

Hiking Mt. Hood



Even if you don't take off on a 2 week bus adventure, you can still choose many of the same solutions for your travels. Here are some of Matt and friends' favorites.