For a long time now, I have had this love of water and waves. I remember being in grade four and drawing surfers in Hawaii, even though I grew up in a Northern Ontario mining town, 4500 km from the nearest ocean. In high school and university I would search out magazine shops to see if I could find the latest editions of Surfing and Surfer. I had no idea where this love of surfing came from until a few years ago when my dad sent me an old picture from the mid to late 70’s. I was standing on the shores of Lake Huron with a small, white Styrofoam surfboard under my arm. When I asked my dad about the details he told me that he had bought the board for me from Canadian Tire. After the picture was taken my little brother and I went out and managed to catch a couple of waves on our belly before I snapped the board in half. But that one wave was all that I needed for my love of surfing to take hold.
It wasn’t until a few decades later when I quit my teaching job and moved west to the mountains and oceans of British Columbia to pursue my path to becoming an outdoor guide in 1999, when I had my first chance to try surfing. That fall I made the pilgrimage to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island where I took a lesson from the only surf school there at the time, Surf Sister. I caught my first wave, bought the 9′ softtop surfboard right from Jenny’s fleet and immediately headed back out to catch a few more waves. I would continue to pursue this passion for surfing up until 2008.
Big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton provided the inspiration for me to get into standup paddleboarding. It was his 2008 film, All Aboard the Crazy Train, where I first saw him with a paddle in hand, surfing thick, double overhead waves in Hawaii. I was mesmerised. What a beautiful combination of two sports that I loved, paddling and surfing, I knew I had to try it and had a pretty strong feeling that there was going to be something special about it. I raced down to Second Wave surf shop in North Vancouver where I convinced the owner to sell me the only sup rental board he had, an 11’6″ Southpoint Kalama Timpone which I immediately took to Deep Cove for my first ever stand up paddle. You never forget the first time you stand up on a board, it was such a cool experience. But my goal with the board was not flatwater paddling, my goal was surfing, just like Laird, so back to Vancouver Island I went. My first wave on that board was caught in the coastal logging town of Port Renfrew and I can still remember being out by myself, the salty smell of the emerald sea, and catching waves with the mist hanging off the Pacific Northwest rainforest. Ahh… true freedom.
Paddle Surf Retreats Built for You
As much as I love exploring our coastline on multiday expeditions my passion for standup started with my love for surfing and continues to this day. I still love getting to Tofino any chance I get. I think my most cherished times are getting to Long Beach, solo, for dawn patrol just as the sun is starting to crest over the peninsula. I also love to share my passion for which is why I have created surf experiences that I think you would really enjoy and that reflects my love of the ocean, coaching and sharing waves in spectacular locations. I hope you get a chance to join us in the surf for some of these experiences in the new year. Have a look at what I have planned for 2024 and beyond.
Our Tofino Surf weekend has been our longest running course and has grown into a five day retreat based at Rancho Tofino where I coach with local, Catherine Bruhwiler. Catherine is not only an incredible surfer but she is a great technical coach and ambassador of her coastal hometown. With great food and fun waves, we always have an amazing time in the fall. This is the perfect experience for beginner paddle surfers and those with flatwater paddling experience. Cath and I coach throughout the week and help you build the right foundation of ocean safety and paddle surfing technique so you can catch your first wave.
I was also work with Catherine’s brother Raph. I have know Raph for a long time but we connected on our conservation film, Stand. Raph is man that can do it all on the coast, a big wave charger and was Canada’s first pro surfer. Raph has been running remote coastal surf trips on Nootka Island for a number of years and knows the area’s surf breaks intimately. My goal in this partnership was to provide the quintessential west coast Canadian paddle surf experience. Nootka Island is raw, rugged and spectacular with the opportunities for remote, uncrowded surf breaks. This is a great trip for you if you have some paddle surf experience already and you are looking for a unique experience. Also if you have a group we can secure a custom date with Raph.
New for spring 2024 we are headed to Portugal to surf with Tiago Silva at Mauka Lodge. Portugal is a wave magnet and offers all levels of beach break surf and we can’t wait to experience the culture on this European surf experience.
In 2025 I have a dream trip lined up to the Maldives with Moon Tours. Moon Tours has been a favourite retreat for the team from Sunova as they also carry a full range of Sunova boards. As much as I love paddle surfing in Canada with 5/4 wetsuits I can’t wait to be surfing warm, uncrowded waves as we explore the various reef breaks from our 62′ luxury support boat.
Send me an email or leave a comment if you have any questions about our surf retreats, or surf specific equipment. If you have a group you would like to surf with, then I can help create a custom trip for you based on your goals and locations. You only need one wave…..
See you in the surf,