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Surfing with Surf Sisters

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Photos courtesy of Tourism BC

By Jonathon Reynolds

I never thought of surfing as a really Canadian sport but Tofino has some of the best waves for surfing and learning to surf in the world. If you want to learn probably one of the best places is at Surf Sisters – a surfing shop focused on women and getting women out surfing. They do teach men as well but many of their courses and workshops are female only. Krissy Montgomery owns Surf Sisters, a surfing shop in Tofino and has a simple answer for why people come to Tofino to surf. Waves. “There’s half a dozen beaches that you can drive to and each faces a different direction,” she says, “so they’re capturing the swell from whatever angle it’s coming from. We get surf almost every day.”

Chesterman and Cox Bay are the most popular beaches and are packed with surfers when the big swells really roll in. Fortunately today is a low swell day – it is actually raining slightly, classic west coast weather. To surf here you need a full wetsuit complete with hood and booties. Once kitted up our teacher takes us to the beach but not into the water. We draw surfboard shapes on the sand and spend some time practicing getting up. This practice will be a great help when we actually get out on the water. I find I am a ’lefty’, I automatically put my left foot forward when I stand up....or try to stand up.

We pick up our boards, attach the board leash to our ankles and walk into the ocean. For a few moments I am dry, then cold water runs under the neoprene of the wetsuit. After another minute we are being pummeled by waves as we stand trying to see which waves look best. The thin layer of water under the wetsuit warms up and I find that I am having fun. It is raining, it is cold and I have not even sat on my surf board but it is fun! We head a bit deeper and start trying to catch a wave. First I don’t even try to stand up – to be honest I forgot about it – I was having so much fun just riding the board along the wave.

With some more instruction and help I finally manage to stand up, and then fall...again and again and again. Then one wave comes in, flat at the front, a bit crumbly, and I paddle with my arms, push and stand up and everything works for at least 20 long seconds. I ride that surf board towards the beach – it is perfect, like riding on pure energy! I fall when I turn to look and see if anyone noticed. But then, as the water closes over me as I fall, I realize it doesn't matter if anyone ever sees this – this is between me and the waves and the world at large. No wonder people surf in any weather; it is an almost religious experience.


I remember something that Krissy mentioned at the surf shop. “Just a warning,” she said, “surfing’s highly addictive.” It sure is. I will be back, the memory of that one ride clear in my head.



Getting to Tofino.

From the British Columbia mainland take the ferry to Nanaimo. From Victoria drive north to Nanaimo.

From Nanaimo:

•    Drive north on Highway 19 to Highway 4 west.
•    Turn right at the Tofino/Ucluelet junction and drive north to Tofino through the Pacific Rim National Park.
•    Travel time from Nanaimo to Tofino - between 2.5 and 3 hours. Drive safe!


Read related articles on surfing and other activities  Tofino


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