Paddle Canada Standup Surf Course

I just got back from a great weekend in Tofino, for the first Paddle Canada Standup Paddleboard Surf course. We had really good weather and some pretty good swell to do the course in. Most of the group including myself showed up to the beach house on South Chestermans’s under a warm, fall sun. The small fishing village of Tofino and epicenter for west coast canadian surf was the ideal location to hold the course with great beginner beach breaks and good waves to be found. I made my first trip out here in 1999 to surf and it is still at the top of my list for favorite places to be. I was excited to be working with three other Paddle Canada Instructors, organizer and Deep Cove charger Mike Darbyshire, Canadian surf legend and Tofino local, Catherine Bruhwiler and Paddlesurfit brand manager Bodie Shandro. We had 10 people registered for the course from all over BC and it ended up being a really great group of people to work with and to share our experiences with.

Just prior to the course I managed to get out to surf South Chesterman’s as there was a nice little south swell pushing in while Cox Bay was concentrating a 10 foot swell that grew as it hit the outer sandbanks. We would not be doing anything this weekend at Cox Bay. I brought a couple of RogueSUP boards including the 10’6″ Tesaro and the 9’8″ Katana, while Mike and Bodie filled out the quiver with Starboard’s and Surftech’s. I surfed in my 5/4/3 Xcel wetsuit with booties and no gloves.

Our evening session consisted of introductions, goals and expectations for the course. Afterwards we introduced an ocean decision making model including swell forecast, tides, weather, self assessment and a great map of the local beaches drawn from memory by Catherine indicating which beaches were best based on the surf and wind forecast. Catherine and her two brothers Sepp and Raph are canadian surfing legends and have really been one of the pioneering surf families responsible for showing Canadians the true potential of our west coast surf scene. Every Canadian surfer should have Jeremy Koreski’s Numb and Shrink in their DVD quiver to watch the talent this family has. All three are sponsored surfers, surf school business owners and coastal adventurers. It was great having Catherine at the course and bringing a local surfers perspective to help the correct transition of paddle surfers into the waves. If your in Tofino and looking for a SUP lesson check out Catherine’s Tofino Paddle Surf. After an informative evening session we outlined the following day and got the excited group ready for a fun two days.

Warm up before prone surf session,

We awoke to great conditions and our day began with a morning surf check at South and North Chesterman’s with some Tofitian coffee’s in hand. I could already tell that South was looking really good and that would be the spot for our day’s lessons. After the surf check and discussion of objective hazards, and Bodie’s warmup we suited up for Catherine’s introduction to surfing. Before we were to give the students a paddle we all agreed it would be important that students understood how to “surf” vs paddle surf. Understanding how to catch waves and how to manage a big SUP board was the focus but it was also important to show students the origins of the sport and give them an important perspective. Much of the problems between paddle surfers and prone surfers comes from the lack of experience and etiquette in waves. It was our job to teach them the proper surf etiquette and teach them how to keep themselves safe and others around them safe. The prone paddling session was great and all students had success. We broke for lunch but the conditions were so good at south that i decided to stay out for another hour. During our afternoon session we used the favorable conditions to teach the paddle surfers how to safely get through the break and how to actually start catching waves in a standing position. After a couple of hours I saw ever person catch at least one good wave. For me watching someone catch a wave for the first time is like watching someone catch a big salmon for the first time, it really brings out my stoke and puts a huge smile on my face. I am pretty fortunate to do what I do and have the chance to facilitate cool experiences for people. You will never forget your first wave and like most great experiences they are enjoyed in the company of others. We surfed until the last light as an early setting sun sent us in to the warm fire at the beach house. With an evening debrief of the days events I surveyed the room and saw a lot of happy people.

Walk before you run.
A front came through during the evening and our morning surf check revealed bigger, messy conditions at South so we decided to head to Mackenzie beach to surf the gentler conditions and clear, glassy waters. The smaller surf allowed us to work our on turns, footwork, and bracing. We again had sunny conditions and it made the afternoon very enjoyable. Mackenzie Beach, is a great place for beginner paddle surfers to learn how to paddle and surf. Even without swell, its a great, safe place to explore with the family. As the afternoon progressed and the swell dropped we decided to call it a day as many of the participants had to head back home to catch the ferry for work on Monday. I stayed another night with Mike and hit the surf again the following morning.
Only a surfer knows the feeling.

Overall i thought the course was a huge success, we had a lot of fun and I felt that people were really successful. We gave people the tools to make good safe decisions before getting into the surf and really stressed the importance of surf etiquette. A question i get a lot of times in my standup paddelboard lessons when they see a sup board is “you can surf these things?” I always have to laugh because it just goes to show you that the masses of standup paddleboarders have only seen it on flatwater and it will continue that way here in Canada with all the lakes we have but let’s not forget that these are surfboards. Surfing is the roots, the heritage of this sport, and in my opinion one of the funnest things you can do on these boards. You sure can Blame Laird for the reason i got into the sport. As an avid surfer since i came out west in 1999 i saw Laird paddlesurf on the dvd All Aboard the Crazy Train and that was it. Done correctly and safely, paddle surfing is something ever one should try. It’s also important to make sure you take a good Intro to Standup Paddleboarding Lesson to learn the correct fundamentals of the forward stroke, turns and board control. Mountain Surf Adventures will be offering more Paddle Canada Coastal Surf courses in the near future. Thanks to Mike D for leading the organization of weekend, and to Bodie and Catherine, I enjoyed working(surfing) with you guys. A big congratulations to all the participants of the first Paddle Canada Coastal Surf Course.

Nuff Said.


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