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By DOC POW
The West Coast of Vancouver Island is home to more than a dozen world-class surf breaks, exceptional dining, Indigenous culture and the ability to get back to nature. Communities including Port Alberni, Ucluelet, Tofino and the coast line of the Pacific Rim National Park, are home to many experiences that will leave you in a state of 'wow.' For those looking for a truly Canadian surf getaway, you will be happy to year you can ride some waves of joy any time of the year (yes, this can include a surf and ski safari if you pair it with Mount Washington).
Enjoy this ZenSeekers’ photo essay and get stoked to hit the coast.
The surf culture on North America’s largest west coast island is alive and strong. I’ve been drawn to it for a long time. I suspect it has something to do with my obsession for snowboarding that has allowed me to cross over into this epic sport.
In September, I had the chance to submerge myself in some Western Canadian surf culture when I checked out the Carving on the Edge Festival.
A full preview of the story about the festival will be published in early 2018 on FestivalSeekers, but for now, here’s a few cool anecdotes and tips for anyone looking to hit #CanadasSurfHwy.
Carved on Vancouver Island these boards hold true to the origin of surfing
I had the chance to meet west coast surfboard carver Allen Halverson, who crafts retro surfboards called Alaia, fashioned the same way as the original Hawaiian surfboards, except his are made right on Vancouver Island.
Halverson says of his boards: “You show up at a beach in California with one of these boards – and you can surf it – you’ve got instant respect; these are not easy to ride.”
That’s because they’re so different than your average board. Traditionally, they are 5.2 metres (17 feet) long and weigh up to 45 kg (100 pounds). Wow, that’s a lot of board, considering today’s boards weigh around three to four kilograms (six to seven pounds.)
But a modern-day Alaia is usually much slimmer, some just ¾ of an inch thick and can be as short as 1.8 metres (six feet). The tails come in a variety of styles, and are known to be difficult to ride.
Halverson takes his designs to new heights partnering with Cecil Dawson of the Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation, who enhances the character of these boards with Indigenous references and designs. (Cecil can also sell you one.)
Looking to catch a wave in Canada? The West Coast from the southern tip of Ucluelet to the northern tip of Tofino, there are so many surf spots to check out, not to mention a friendly and welcoming culture. You could easily spend a whole week here with accommodations for all budgets, a robust local food scene and more adventures, such as kayaking and hiking.
If you happen to take a surf road trip this fall, be sure to enter to win the West Coast Photo Contest Scenic Spot contest. Simply use the hashtag #CanadasSurfHwy. For more details, check out www.TheRealWestCoast.ca
The above photo, #4, was taken at Long Beach Lodge in Tofino, which has an onsite Surf Club. It’s a convenient place to rent gear (so you don’t have lug yours along). Rent. Surf. Return. Dead simple. The lodge is set on Cox Bay, one of North America’s top surfing locations – and with some of the most incredible sunsets from the patio.
Want to see what the waves are doing today? Check out the Long Beach Lodge webcam and see the ocean in action here - http://www.longbeachlodgeresort.com/ - webcam
Everything is themed for the wild around here – even the bike racks. There’s been some pretty cool community planning that keeps a strong connection to its natural environment.
This is a community which cares about its backyard deeply. If the government’s plan to log the area wouldn’t have been stopped by some very passionate people, Tofino wouldn’t look the way it does today in all its natural beauty. Rather, it would have looked over a graveyard of a forest, and not the preserved wilderness that we are able to enjoy today.
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of all this coastal beauty, you can book a flying adventure with the folks from Atleo Air. This is an amazing way to appreciate this pristine coastline. Want to learn more? There are a variety of packages offered year-round at http://www.atleoair.com/day-trips.html
The surf breaks pretty much every day, and one of the easiest ways to get to enjoy it quickly and easily is with KDAir. Getting from Vancouver is a simple 50-minute flight.
If you choose to drive, you’ll go through Port Alberni. Be sure to take the cool steam train ride at the McLean Mill Historic Park and explore the magical and gorgeous old-growth forest at Cathedral Grove.
Once you hit Tofino and those West Coast waves, you’ll be ready to fuel up. Don’t miss the chance to chow down on some of the best food truck fare anywhere at Tacofino. This upstart kickstarted the food truck trend in 2009, one taco at a time. Located on a gravel parking lot, set among surf shops, you’ll be in surf town heaven.
You can stand up paddleboard (SUP) at MacKenzie Beach until your heart’s content. Secluded by sea cliffs on either side, this beach is nice and calm. You can rent a board at Tofino Paddle Boards, who are happy to help beginners get out on the water with ease. They offer all sorts of tours, too.
Because this is a protected beach, it’s perfect for beginners and a haven for anyone looking for a peaceful SUP experience. The surf shop is right on the beach, making it easy to just pull your board out onto the water and get paddling.
Surfing can be tough and similar to skiing or snowboarding, it might just take a few hours with someone who really knows what they are doing, an instructor, to truly become “a surfer”.
There is a reason Tofino's Pacific Surf Company has been one of Canada’s longest running surf instruction companies, you’ll know why once you experience it - they get the job done and will get you surfing! Ask for Adam, he’s a legend in town and has been teach surfing for five years along #CanadasSurfHwy