A few weeks ago, I made the journey up to Vancouver Island. I had heard some great things about Tofino, a small surf town with legendary tacos.
With no prep and on a whim I departed. Google said it would take me around five hours to get from where I was staying near Squamish to get to Tofino and that supposedly included the ferry ride. Deal! What I didn’t know is that the ferry included a several hour wait.
When I arrived at the ferry, I paid for a ticket and got in line. I was about an hour and a half early for the ferry, but nonetheless, I didn’t make it on that one. There were quite a few vehicles ahead of me, apparently. It was a few hours until the next ferry. For those of you heading to or from Vancouver Island, you can actually make a reservation on the ferry to save potentially hours of waiting. The waiting wasn’t too bad since there was a bit of a town nearby with plenty of restaurants and coffee shops. I found one with wifi and wrote a blog post in the meantime.
When I wandered back over to my Jeep about thirty minutes before the ferry left I started up a conversation with the folks in front of me. Apparently they make this trip regularly and they informed me about the reservation system. They also explained that the drive to Tofino might be a bit dangerous in the dark because it’s a remote highway through the mountains. I noted that and decided if it was too dark, I would just camp near one of the towns. Thankfully, I made good enough time, I didn’t have to.
The ferry ride itself was uneventful, but filled with stunning scenery the entire time. The grey skies and constant drizzle only added to the beauty. There weren’t many people willing to brave the deck, which made it feel like I was the only one on the massive ferry. It was surreal. I took way too many photos and videos:
After the ferry, I had a pretty fun drive all the way to Tofino. I was about through the mountains when it got dark. There’s really just one road into Tofino and I saw some hitchhikers heading there. I decided “why the heck not?” and picked them up. They turned out to be super friendly skaters from Ontario. I picked up on the accent right away after hanging out with my friend Stephane for a few weeks. I brought them into town where we shared some drinks at the skate park. Then we ventured way the heck down the beach to camp for the night. In the morning I realized it was probably not the most legal thing as there was a no camping sign about 100 yards from our camp site. Whoops! 🙁 We packed up when we saw that and left no trace. Then we went our separate ways. They wanted to skate and I wanted to try surfing.
I made my way to a recommended surf shop. I ended up getting a lesson from Westside Surf School because I had never surfed before and grew up in a land-locked state. I had no prior surf knowledge at all. They hooked me up with a wetsuit (also totally new to me), which I had my doubts about considering how dang cold that water was when I waded into it that morning. They also gave me a gigantic foam board. It wasn’t nearly as cool looking as the ones we saw the pros using, but I didn’t mind. I had no preconceived notions that I was going to be looking cool by the end of the day.
Once our group gathered up at the launch time, we headed to the beach. The instructor walked us through several exercises on the beach to get us used to standing up on the board. After that, we walked into the ocean. The wetsuit went from this stiff uncomfortable thing to a super well-fitting warm beautiful thing. It was amazing! We started out paddling into and riding the tail end of the waves on our knees. The waves were between ten and fifteen feet high. There was no way we were going to catch them where the skilled surfers were. I did above average for the group and ended up standing about five times. Really only one of those times did I ride it all the way in (the last wave).
I have to say, it was absolutely a blast. Even though I spent most of the time flailing around and falling in new cool ways, the few times I stood were enough to get me hooked. I would definitely go again.
After surfing, I hit up the famous Tacofino food truck for some absolutely legendary tacos. Then, I went to one of the two or three places to drink in town, the Tofino Brewing Company. There, I met some fellow travelers. They had a kickass vanagon with a lift and all sorts of upgrades. The two were doing what I did and spending the weekend in Tofino on a whim and for some reason brought their friend’s dog.
After the tacos, I headed back down to the beach to just relax a bit and enjoy the “sunset” even though it was cloudy and drizzling. It was beautiful anyway.
I needed a shower after all that beach time, so I got a room at a decently priced motel in town that night. Worth it. the next day, I had some breakfast at a great little coffee shop. I hit the beach for a bit and then started the journey to get to Bowen Island. This turned out to be just as rough as my previous experience, but I’ll get into that when I post about Bowen Island.