Tofino: The Magical Wonderland

by steve watts February 13, 2013

surfing in Tofino, Canada

Tofino, Canada

Last month, as the summer drew to a close here in California, I thought it would be a good idea and great timing to venture up North. I have always wanted to go to Canada, but for some reason I always found reasons not to bear the cold (I'm not saying it's cold all the time, but that's just the way I see it in my mind, albeit I am informed by every Canadian, "It gets real hot here during the summer..... Eh.") I still I don't believe them. If you where to trace my previous ventures, as my Dad pointed out, "You don't seem to stray too far from the you, son?”

He was right! I am terrible in the cold! I am not a huge fan of frozen feet and wind-chill. Unless, of course, I am attached to a snowboard. Then for some reason, I forget my complaining. However, Canada has always held an allure for me. I am not sure why, but I'm leaning toward the possibility that it has something to do with the fact that every Canadian I have ever met was just plain cool! I mean, really nice people. I know it sounds cliché, as it seems everyone that meets a Canadian says the same thing, but it is true. Case and point, I met a few of them on my travels through Australia in 1999. 13 years later, I get welcoming invitations to come enjoy their amazing country, so without too much hesitation I took them up on their offer.

Tofino Canada surfingI was not disappointed! The first thing I noticed, and if you live in Los Angeles, you will understand my joy: There is no traffic!  Ahhh yes, no traffic. The second is just how incredibly beautiful it is. The majority of my stay was on Vancouver Island. It is like a city in a forest, surrounded by tree-capped islands.  It’s jaw dropping, or so I thought, until we ventured up the West Coast. I can honestly say I had no idea how beautiful it would really get. Our destination was for a small, somewhat sleepy and apparently surf-oriented town located at the western terminus of Highway 4, on the tip of the Esowista Peninsula, at the southern edge of Clayoquot Sound called Tofino.  Sound confusing? Just drive Highway 4 and you will hit it. Ohh... and you might, if you're lucky, see another car. Once I was told about this wonderland of perfect surf and outstanding beauty, it peaked my interest and curiosity to no end. "Surfing in Canada?! Yeah, whatever bro," was the resounding voice of just about every surf buddy I have in L.A.

I have concluded that it is an ingenious ploy on behalf of the local Tofino surf community to keep outsiders from hounding their break. They send out sleeper cells to far corners of the world to inform everyone there is no surf in Canada....genius!  California should have had that forethought 60 years ago, and maybe there wouldn’t be 200 hundred people to a wave nowadays. Compare that to the 2 solitary guys I found surfing a really sweet reef break at an undisclosed location, down a path, through a temperate rainforest, left at a big rock and down the beach. It was a perfect bowley looking right.  I lost count of the numbers of barrels both guys were getting.  One was on a bodyboard and the other a shortboard. You may ask why I wasn't joining them.  If I told you I only have a 3-4 suit, would you forgive me? You see, out here it may be incredible and deserted, but you have to be prepared. Especially if you have a cold phobia like I do. You need to be prepared with a 5-6mm suit with booties and a hood, but as I'm told it’s really not that bad after that.  Honestly, after seeing what I saw, I think I would brave anything for a piece of that.

Tofino Canada surfingIt has to be said.  To me, it seems to be half the draw and fascination as a surfer to this place.  It can kill you!  Quickly too, if you are not prepared.  There is a lot to watch out for up here. The very cold water, the insane current, the large waves, the wildlife: and that's just to start.  Sure, I've traveled to some fairly far, out –of-the-way places.  Nias, Northern Sumatra and the West Coast of Australia are pretty isolated and rugged in their own way. However, there is something very unforgiving about this environment.  Something I had never before experienced, and I loved it!  It just keeps clawing at you to return, and I am sure I will very shortly! 

Here is a mind-blowing short from some of the fantastic people we met on the way up. This is their take on island life in Canada.  Check out more of their videos at Goose Goose Revolution

This spring, we took some friends to a remote cabin on Canada's West Coast.  Filmed by Emilie Ouellette and Adam DeWolfe, starring surfer Ted Saczek , sponger Greg and Axe Warrior Dave.

Visit WWW.PACIFICWILD.ORG to learn more on the challenge that this beautiful coastline faces.

steve watts
steve watts

Growing up in South Africa, Steve spent his youth dreaming of far off places. After spending eight years extensively traveling to many of the great surf destinations of the world getting dengue fever, having a near death experience from a falling coconut in mexico, Surviving a 15 foot drop on a handboard on a Nias bomb, jumping from every rock he could find without adequate health insurance. and comprehensively debunking the myth there are no waves in Thailand, even if they are small. He decided it was time for a a degree. Steve Graduated from Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design in London with a degree in product design. He missed his graduation to go surfing in Californian, found a kindred spirit with Venice and never left

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