Last weekend I was in Tofino, British Columbia for our three day Paddle Canada Coastal Journeying Course. Cat Bruhwiler and I had partnered up to offer this course for those excited about sup touring on the ocean and improving expedition paddling skills. The course focused on weather forecasting, decision making, trip planning, navigating, currents & tides, launching and landing in surf, and improving skills and paddling technique. We had a full course with 12 paddlers from around British Columbia. Not only would the clients be improving their skills but they would have the chance to experience the magic of paddling around Tofino.
Day 1: We had set up accommodations at the Tofino Swell Lodge located right on the calm inlet side of Tofino. It was a perfect base camp with a common area for teaching and cooking, complete with an outdoor hot tub, fireplace and many rooms for accommodation. Our paddlers arrived on Friday evening and after some delicious halibut cerviche served up by Catherine and Trevor our course started. Friday night was spent sharing thoughts about touring specific sup equipment, safety considerations, decision making models for the ocean and the use of charts for navigating. We set a plan for the following day based on weather, tides, currents and swell forecast and then enjoyed the rest of the evening by the campfire. The conditions for the following day were looking pretty sweet.
Day 2: We awoke to stellar ocean conditions and after a coffee at my favorite place, the Tofitian, we geared up at Cat’s shop on Mackenzie Beach. Cat has a really sweet location so if your visiting Tofino and would like a lesson or a tour swing by to see her and her staff. With the amazing conditions of a glassy seas state, low swell and no wind we decided to travel out to Tonquin Island first before going around Leonard Island light house. It also gave Cat and I the chance to talk about group travel and to work on forward strokes and efficiency. We made our way around Leonard Island and then headed to South Chesterman’s to practice our surf landings and surf launches. The small, glassy waves provided a great opportunity to learn these new skills without a lot of risk. From South Chesterman we crossed the land spit leading to Frank Island and then had a leisurely paddle across North Chesterman’s on our way back to Mackenzie Beach for lunch. If you want an incredible lunch while your in Tofino, go to Tacofino, an old food truck located at the back of the Live to Surf parking lot. Wicked fish taco’s, burritos and one of the most amazing cookies I have ever eaten.
After lunch we launched our boards right off the docks at the lodge. We passed Chris, the owner, who was down at the dock processing the fish he had just caught. Chris runs a salmon fishing business right from the lodge and will take visiting guests out on fun guided fishing expeditions. I was excited about paddling the inlet side because our group would have the chance to paddle in moving water and stronger tidal currents. The group practiced their ferry angles and spent time getting comfortable on their boards in more challenging and dynamic conditions. We also focused on teaching the group how to use terrain like islands, and points to move efficiently even when going against the currents. We made it to the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island and a short rainforest hike took us into some incredible stands of Red Cedar trees. Conditions were warm with little wind and after our hike a short paddle took us back to the lodge. With our morning and afternoon paddle we probably covered around 15kms. Clients spent the evening around the fire again and enjoyed a stunning west coast sunset.
Day 3: Our final day started at South Chesterman’s and we paddled past Rosie Bay on our way over to Cox Bay. There was a little bit of a bigger swell and even though it’s a pretty short distance the water is always dynamic in this area with the currents running in one direction, swell’s focusing in Rosie’s and backwash off Sunset Point. We discussed getting a little lower in our stances, increasing our stroke rates, and leaning more weight onto the paddle to provide more stability and speed while paddling. We made our way to the south end of Cox Bay and our group had a blast paddle surfing the Land of Lefts. I was really impressed with the skills in the surf that people were developing. The group was ripping waves on all kinds of boards, Warren was surfing his 14′ Starboard Carbon All Star, Kathy was on a Starboard K-15, and we even had a 14′ Jimmy Lewis downwind board testing it’s design. The rest of the boards were paddle surf boards including a Surftech Laird Woody, a couple of Naish’s, and a few Starboard Drives that were perfect for the conditions. Up to this morning, I had been paddling my 12’6′ Boardworks Raven but traded that in for my 10’10” Boardworks Rusty since I knew we would be getting into some surf. The more and more I surf this Rusty the more I love it. It’s well constructed, super stable and surf’s really well. After having a blast in the surf, we toured the south side of the bay hugging the shoreline and using the rip and made our way out to the exposed waters of Cox Point. I had never been out to this rugged point and the view back to the beaches was pretty sweet. We paddled across the bay and back to our landing spot at South Chestermans, but not before riding a few sweet waves.
This was the conclusion to our weekend and some of the crew stayed for an extra night and some headed back to catch the ferry. After a really good lunch I made my way out to Long Beach to surf some wedging lefts with Tofino local, friend and fellow Laurentian Voyageur, Andy Greig. After another two hours of surfing I dragged myself out of the water and headed back to Andy and Ade’s for some sushi. It was a great way to end a super fun weekend. Cat and I are both looking forward to offering another course in the near future.
Big thanks to Catherine for organizing the weekend, as always great working with you. Thanks as well to all of the clients who participated in the course kudos on a great job paddling over the weekend. It was a lot of fun working with you all. And thanks to Andy, Ade and Micah for having me at their home.