Surfing in Tofino, Canada
By Olivia Klein
After writing an article on the surfing culture in the Pacific Northwest recently, I became really interested in potentially trying it out for myself.
An opportunity presented itself over Memorial Day weekend when I talked more with one of my sources from the article, Antonia Parrish. She, along with Franny McLarty and Bree Daigneault, had been planning a surf trip since November to Tofino, the cold-water surfing capital of Canada.
My only prior surf experience was from a beach day in Costa Rica about six years ago, but this seemed like too amazing of an opportunity to pass up.
Saturday, May 26
Friday night, we set our alarms for 4:30 a.m. We needed to get on the road early for the eight hours of travel ahead of us, including a two-hour ferry crossing from Tsawwassen to Duke Point.
We loaded up our car with camping gear, food, wetsuits and Antonia’s boards, and we arrived at the ferry terminal to catch the boat.
The car ride was a great time to catch up on sleep, but it was also an excuse to tell stories and get to know each other better. Before this trip, I knew the girls mostly through mutual friends, but we were able to get much closer this weekend.
Around 1:00 p.m., we finally arrived at Long Beach Golf Campground, where we would be living for the next few days. We checked in, set up our tents and headed straight to the Long Beach Surf Shop to rent two more boards. After so many hours on the road, nobody could wait to finally get in the water.
Finally, we arrived at Cox Bay Beach, a perfect place for cold-water surfing amateurs and beginners. We unstrapped the boards, put on our wetsuits and walked along the forested gravel path to the beach.
Far from crowded, the low-tide sand beach reflected the sky in a breathtaking view.
We all made our way into the water, bracing ourselves for cold, but thanks to our wetsuits, it never came. We paddled out in pursuit of our first waves, laying face down on our boards. Upon seeing an ideal wave, we had to turn around and begin paddling hard in the opposite direction, preparing for the thrill of the pop up.
We all fell many times, but there was a steep learning curve, and everyone was able to stand before it was time to leave.
Despite the cloudy skies, everyone came out of the water grinning and sunkissed. We were simultaneously exhausted and excited from all the effort put into those few magical seconds of riding a wave.
We headed back to our campsite, ate some dinner and lit our campfire, ready for another day of surfing.
Although originally planning to get to sleep early, we decided to meet some of our campground neighbors. We ended up hitting it off with a group of travelers all the way from Germany, as well as an Australian and a Canadian who joined by at the campfire. We all sat, listening to music and sharing stories until early the next morning.
Sunday, May 27
We woke up the next day recharged and ready for more surfing. Everyone ate a quick breakfast, then loaded up the car for another day at Cox Bay Beach.
We were able to surf for around four hours, and the improvement was very evident. We drifted to the other side of the beach due to high winds, and the ocean air was far from warm on all our faces, but everyone rose to the challenge, paddling and catching waves for the next four hours.
We took a small break for a light lunch of carrots, chips and hummus, but everyone was eager to spend as much time in the water as possible.
Eventually, we all caught our last waves and left the water to start packing up in order to return our rented boards at 5:30 p.m., but we were all tired and hungry enough to smile as we sank into the seats of the car.
For dinner, we drove into town and found a food truck called Tacofino’s, where we ate some delicious mexican food. Then, we stopped for gelato at a shop nearby for dessert.
After checking out the town, we returned to our campsite for another evening spent around the campfire. This time, it was just the four of us, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Monday, May 28
The next morning, we woke up to a gentle rain falling against our tents. The birds began chirping and the sun was already in the sky by 8:00 a.m., the ideal natural sounds to wake up to before our road trip back to Bellingham.
We all set about preparing a breakfast of oatmeal, taking down the tents and packing all of our soggy gear into the car. The wetsuits, our tents and all of us were covered in the satisfying stench that can only come from a successful weekend of camping.
The four of us spent the next hours on the road sleeping, jamming out to our new favorite classic rock radio station and laughing about all of our new inside jokes. The time seemed to fly by, and we finally arrived at the ferry terminal heading back to Tsawwassen.
The ferry was a wonderful opportunity to stretch out our sore legs and walk around before our next hours on the road.
The time flew by until we reached the line for the border.
Accustomed to the ocean breeze, the muggy heat from the sun was an uncomfortable surprise, even with the windows open. But after nearly an hour of waiting, we handed in our passports and passed the peace arch leaving Canada.
We arrived back at Western around 5:30 p.m., just in time for dinner and a shower before starting the next week.