Looking out at the crashing waves does wonders for the soul. The long stretches of Pacific Ocean that border Vancouver Island’s West Coast are dotted by rippling stretches of beach, aquamarine sea anemone, colourful starfish, crags of mussels and barnacles, tangles of kelp and lush, vibrant forest.
As far as the eye can see is ocean—just vast, expansive ocean; all the way to Asia. And somehow, it’s comforting to know that the swells that crash against our coastline originate in far off lands – New Zealand, perhaps. We are all connected by this ever-transforming element. Whether summer or winter, the coast is still there; beckoning to us, tempting us to ride her waves and inhale her sea-soaked winds. A Family Day weekend in Tofino was calling my name, despite the date on the calendar. And so, I went…
“Surfing in February? Isn’t it cold?” That’s a common question when one announces they are headed for a February surf trip in Tofino, BC.
Before I went, it was hard to imagine what winter surfing would be like. I’ve been to Tofino many timess during the summer … mostly during August AKA “Fogust.” But, when one thinks of being on the coast during raging storm season, it’s natural to have visions of chattering teeth, hypothermia and crouching miserable and ice-block-frigid behind a beach log thinking: “why, God, why?”
But, it was time to learn to appreciate a true West Coast winter and there’s no better way to get into the spirit than a cold water surf trip.
All my reservations went out the window as soon as we arrived in Tofino for the Just Add Water Retreat to find a semi-clear day and temperatures of 7 Celsius. Granted, this isn’t always the norm, but it was sure a pleasant surprise.
The yoga, surf and stand up paddleboard retreat, co-hosted by Stand Up Paddle Vancouver (@SupVancouver on Twitter) and Tofino Paddle Surf (@TofinoPaddlSurf on Twitter), took place at a beautiful Chesterman’s Beach in a gorgeous rented home overlooking the ocean. Small, intimate and affordable, it was all about re-connecting with winter, our beautiful, wild coastal surroundings, and most importantly: ourselves. The ocean has a habit of helping with that.
The small group of women was honoured to glean local knowledge from the humble and down-to-earth Catherine Bruhwiler; one of Canada’s best female pro surfers and Roxy athlete. The Bruhwilers are well-known for pioneering the sport – both in Tofino and Canada – and have a number of surf and standup paddleboard businesses in the area. Vancouver’s Kristy Wright Schell – Lululemon ambassador, Yyoga instructor and owner of SUP Vancouver – rounded out the weekend with yoga and SUP instruction.
Together, we went on beach treks, watched the waves, sat around beach bonfires and chatted about life; all the while approaching each new cave, sea creature and swell with the wonderment of a child. We are all born innocent and sometimes, that inner child comes back to the surface.
When it came time to hit the waves, our 5mm wetsuits, booties, gloves and hoods kept us warm – surprisingly so. The wind was low and the swell was consistent, building throughout the weekend. We tried SUP surfing and then switched to regular surfing. Both wave riding sports are so radical in every single way, each with their own nuances and challenges. One simple surfing tip from Cath – adding that extra inch by putting your chin down on the board while catching a wave – well, that changed everything for me!
As the sun set on our Tofino adventure and before we departed in search of the ferry line ups, I took a final walk along Chesterman’s beach and soaked up that crashing surf and the view of the never-ending Pacific – a home to me. If there’s ever a time when you need to disconnect, reflect, then reconnect, the answer is simple: just add water. And do it in Tofino, a town of simple pleasures, magical surroundings and salt of the earth human beings. The next Surf, SUP, Yoga retreat is March 8-11. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
PUBLICATION: Vancouver Is Awesome