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Canada - Brisitish Coumbia, Tofino, Long Beach // The Claw

Killvan's Canada. A tale of what surfing in freezing temperatures in Tofino on Vancouver Island does to the dexterity in your hands.


Pete Devries was serious when he said he'd rather surf in a steamer than boardshorts. But I guess when your born and bred in Tofino Canada, surfing in freezing water and icy air temperatures has been dealt with years ago. Though for first timers there are many elements to get accustomed to on a surf adventure in Canada and the cold is the first and foremost confronting one that'll slap you in the face.

After snowboarding Whistler it was going to be an epic combination if we could surf within the same couple of days. Vancouver Island was rumored to be a beautiful island that exists in its own world, inhabited by friendly local folk who reside in relative harmony with the flora and fauna.

Departure was to be from Horseshoe Bay on the north western side Vancouver city, accessed by the Trans Canada Highway. When reached the terminal was an orderly almost slow affair, this pace suited the weather and complemented The Straight Of Georgia, a broad calm stretch of water between the city and the arrival port of Nanaimo.

With the van stowed below we sat out on the viewing platform of the ferry, watching planes take off from the city behind us, and eagles soaring at our destination. The green hue from the land blending with the ocean and sky blues calmed the senses, and as a blunt wind pushed up over the bow it began to numb the face things began to get cold.

Pete, Alister and his girl from Storm Surf Shop agreed to meet us down at Long Beach for an afternoon surf, with a small uniformed swell pushing in from the south we'd be getting our first surf early on the excursion. The cold is a wretched element for your surfing, unless of course you're Pete. Throwing fins and punting at will into a wispy cold offshore was impressive. Clad in six mill rubber with hood and booties, such surfing would take sometime for the rest of us to sort out. For those surfers residing closer to the equator the element of cold is not condusive to performance surfing.

The sun dipped and with it the temperature. We hung out in the car park sharing laughs celebrating new found friendships of the road. Gloved hands clamped tinned beers as a small fire was made on the dark sands of Long Beach. Pete and Alistar were comfortable in their home surrounds, it was nice to be around. Though after sometime standing around in the car park was no longer of appeal. The good times and ale had temporarily parked the fact that we had to get out of wet wetsuits and into our van. A dreaded cold began to make it's way into the core, seeping into the bones and draining the energy levels, like a dimming torch from low batteries.

"Ah we call it The Claw" Alistars girlfriend said, laughing as I attempted to get the key into the lock of the van door. It was impossible, there was no dexterity in my fingers, and as the hand was still formed like it was gripping the beer can, my efforts were futile. Removing the neoprene glove was no help, the small key burned, sticking like dry ice to the fingers. The three of them laughed at the ordeal shouting "The Claw, The Claw!". It was humorous, though distressing after many failed attempts and no assistance as they all stood around in laughing. They'd obviously all felt the wrath of The Claw themselves.

A fire was built which eventually thawed out the extremities, enough to make things a bit more comfortable. The numbing wetsuit hung almost frozen from the side mirror and began to take on a suit of death appearance. Getting back into that thing would take some effort, knowing every time you want to ride a wave up here in Canada, there is a price. But it's one you'll pay if you know the reward.

 

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LOCATION OVERVIEW

Location: Vancouver Island, Canada.
Optimum: August is foggy but warmest, though March April May sees more favourable conditions.
Weather: Cold for the most part, water and land. Winter and Spring are weather seasons which can be nasty so go Autumn and late summer.
Surf Conditions: Beachbreaks and Rivermouths,
Access: Fly into Vancouver from any major international and grab the ferry across to Vancouver Island, then drive across to the west coast. You can also get ferries from the USA (ie: Seattle)
Accomodation: Camping, Holiday Rentals, Hotels. It's kick back country mountian vibe, expect a slow pace hippy glow.
Live Free:  8/10.  Nature.


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