By now, you may or may not know about Portland, Oregon’s surf scene. Maybe you’re a local, or you heard about it in passing from an OG Pacific Northwest wave runner or a coastal transient. Or maybe you’ve made the two-hour ride outside the city to brave the moody waters of the Pacific Ocean and scope it out yourself once or twice. But if you haven’t heard about Portland’s surf scene, you’re about to.
The city of Portland is changing and growing fast. What was once a beloved park block filled with green grass and neighborhood goats is now home to towering apartment complexes. The quirky bars and show houses that “made Portland weird” are being replaced with bourgie boutiques and California-inspired restaurants. But with the shifting tides of change, we’re also seeing people like Lyndsey Lee Faulkner of Leeward Northwest Surf & Sea keeping the Pacific Northwest vibes alive through community, design and quality goods. As the founder of Leeward Northwest Surf & Sea, Lyndsey has created a space for people to explore and celebrate the Pacific Northwest’s unique surf culture. As Leeward gears up for its grand opening, we stopped by to catch up with Lyndsey to learn more about the shop and Portland’s growing surf community.
Q. Where does your passion for surfing come from, specifically cold-water surfing in the PNW?
A. I started surfing when I was about 8-years-old. I was immediately addicted to the sensation of riding waves. Surfing was central to the culture on the small barrier island I grew up on. In a way, I was raised on it. I moved to the PNW about 10 years ago, and fell in love with the culture, landscape and people of Oregon and Washington. I knew if I wanted to stay here, I would need to find a way to make surfing a part of my regular routine. So I did just that, trading in my swimsuit for a 5mm wetsuit and booties.
I’ll admit I was intimidated at first, but now I love everything about surfing on the PNW coast. There’s a real sense of adventure commitment that comes with it, and I enjoy the whole process: the search–and sometimes long drives–for waves in fickle conditions, camping out in my van, building a bonfire to keep warm, hikes to the beach. All of it.
Q. What was the inspiration behind Leeward and what do you hope to contribute to PDX’s growing surf community?
A. Basically, the goal is to create a space in Portland where surfers, shapers, designers and artists can feel supported in their endeavors. I hope we can bring a creative perspective to the surf community here, one that is inspired by exploration in surf craft, informed by good design, and influenced by artists in Portland and on the West Coast. We also want to do what we can to rally the community around causes we believe in, things like clean water and air, sustainable manufacturing and agriculture, and utilizing surfing as a tool to create positive change in people’s lives.
Q. Leeward will also serve as an art gallery featuring local artists and designers. What kind of exhibits can we expect?
A. If anything, I think we can expect the exhibits to be diverse in media–from film to sculpture to painting–and expression. Most of all, it will probably reflect my personal taste, which has a wide range, but is definitely influenced by mid-century work. I tend to gravitate towards work that feels retro, yet contemporary, and has strong ties to design.
Q. From quality apparel to post-surf wellness goods and adventure literature, Leeward has a lot to offer. How do you go about curating products to sell at the shop?
A. Like the exhibits in the store, the product curation definitely reflects my personal tastes. I love the experience of walking in a shop and discovering something new or special. I want to stock items in the shop that are intended to last, are purposeful and bring our customers joy.
For that reason, we try to support small and independent designers and brands in the shop that value quality craftsmanship and design, as well as strive for sustainable manufacturing practices. I’ve peppered the store with unique vintage finds because buying used is a great way to reduce our footprint, and I love things that grow better with time. I am always on the lookout for an inspiring book, hand thrown ceramics, or all-natural skin care line to share with others.
Our board selection reflects a sense of exploration, but also has a retro vibe. We love to see shapers pushing the boundaries on board design, while paying homage to the shapes that came before them.
Q. I was so stoked to learn that we both have a mutual fondness for Psych and Surf Rock. If we were to walk into the shop right now, what’s playing on the radio?
A. Oh, good question! Lately, I have been listening to a lot of ‘70s folk/psych. This band, Relatively Clean Rivers, has a song called “Hello Sunshine” that I can’t get enough of. It’s the perfect summer jam.
I’m also loving a newer album by a Japanese Band called Kikagaku Moyo, a lot of Sonny and the Sunsets lately, and Parquet Courts as well. The new Flock of Dimes is a really excellent pop record. Classics always on rotation are The Talking Heads, Waylon Jennings and Tom Petty. I’m also really jamming on a lot of late-‘90s hip-hop lately and Erykah Badu. I could go on and on.
Q. We’ll see you at the grand opening party on May 11. What time should we be there and should we bring anything?
A. Awesome! The party starts at 5:00 p.m. and the first 50 folks through the door get a Leeward Tide Chart. Just bring yourselves and a good attitude!
Images by Lisa Dougherty