Langlois, Oregon, doesn't appear on maps. On the remote coast of southern Oregon where it sits, finding signs of civilization is tough even with my Google Maps at full zoom. There is, however, a speed trap as a handful of buildings come into view along Highway 101. Today, as on most days, the Langlois Market is the only one showing activity.
"Welcome to downtown," Will Brady says, grinning from behind the wheel of his Subaru Outback. "You hungry?"
I'm actually famished after spending the morning with Brady and his sons, Reed and Josh, watching them launch their kiteboards down the coast. And while I'm a bit pessimistic about the menu choices at rural roadside markets, the Brady boys have been claiming the sandwich counter here.
Inside, up in the rafters next to the stuffed cougars and giant elk heads, there are also T-shirts bragging of this establishment's world-famous hot dogs. There's an endearing chorus of welcoming abuse from the store staff, which is undoubtedly filled with old friends. While the boys get busy volleying the abuse, I hang back and take in the surroundings. After an adventurous morning in the wilderness, I nab a little table in the sandwich shop and observe Langlois' social hub.
The tiny store aisles are packed with provisions, but it's impossible not to notice two giant men with long beards, big bellies, and greasy overalls wandering down the hardware aisle like curious bears, sniffing out the 80-grit sandpaper. Just down the way, a family of German tourists is arguing with each other over which tent spikes they need. Some displaced hipsters are examining beer bargains at the glass coolers in back, while at the table next to me a cute elderly couple in full bird-watching regalia is licking fresh scoops of ice cream.
While our sandwiches are being prepared, Will zips down a few aisles to nab some provisions for home. But when it comes time to finally leave, he needn't reach for his wallet, because the owner, who doesn't look a day over 30, simply makes a note of the transaction on the Brady family tab, then waves him off: "By the way," he says. "Tell Liz I have that tea she wants on order. The rep finally showed up again."
I leave content. "Man, how cool is that place?"
Will Brady laughs. "Yeah, it's pretty sweet. It makes life pretty simple."
Sweet and simple are the perfect words to describe the lifestyle Will Brady has created on this hidden corner of Oregon. Two days into my visit and I'm in total envy of his existence. From his house I can see a lake, a beach, and the ocean. His commute to work is down a flight of stairs. He's married to his high school sweetheart. And to top it off his grown kids enjoy playing, working, and hanging out with him. Will Brady is clearly doing something right, so I'm inquiring about how it all came to be.
Will and Liz Brady were typical Southern California beach rats until Will moved to Oregon to attend college in the early '80s and discovered its vast, untamed coast. "I'd fallen in love with windsurfing, and this place—with the wind and weather we get, it's heaven. I had so many incredible days up here I couldn't imagine going back."
While winters are harsh, wet, and stormy, they produce the goods for hardcore surfers, windsurfers, and kiteboarders like Brady. Liz, meanwhile, prefers Oregon's endless summers when the temps rise, the skies clear, and the coast sparkles.
Will rented windsurfing equipment out of the back of his van in those early days, and eventually started teaching lessons. The business steadily gained traction, and after a lot of searching the couple found an affordable plot of land near Floras Lake that had serious possibilities. In 1990, their son Reed Brady was born while they were readying their next business venture: a bed & breakfast.
The Floras Lake Bed & Breakfast opened for business in 1991, and the nearby campground became the perfect feeder for Will's ever-expanding windsurfing school. Both businesses thrived. Josh was born in 1992, and it was only a matter of time before both sons were out on the water with dad.
The Bradys were early adopters of kiteboarding, as its added utility has revolutionized their playground. "What's amazing about the kites is how much more you can do on them. They're easy to move around with, and they've opened up all kinds of new possibilities in how and where we ride."
Today, Reed, 24, and Josh, 21, are instructors, and two of the most talented kiteboarders on the West Coast. After spending their college years in California, they have a greater appreciation for their own backyard. Both are home working on the family businesses for now. And why not? From April through September they teach and ride. But come October, when things shut down for winter, they have a beautiful chunk of the southern Oregon coast to themselves, and right now there's nothing better than hopping in the car and exploring the possibilities.
"It's hard to beat this place," says Reed. "I mean, I've gone looking, and I get to travel a bit more with kiteboarding now, but I haven't found anything like it."
"Hey, I was thinking the exact same thing at their age," says Will, recalling the feeling. "I still am."