Wild wild country
Words and photos by Chris Peel
When someone say to you, 'lets go on a surf trip' the first thing that comes to mind for most of us is perfect waves, warm water, offshore wind, and no crowds. For a small percentage of surfers it's the total opposite - well, minus the crowds bit.
Last week, a storm in the North Pacific caused a core group of surfers on Vancouver Island to speculate about a wave in their 'hood that doesn’t do it’s thing all that often. A small window of opportunity had cracked open and decisions had to be made.
Vancouver Island is home to a bunch of good waves and very protective locals. Scoring those waves is much harder than just rolling up with a surfboard under your arm. You need a lifetime of experience to understand the lay of the land and the radical movement of tides. And if you think you can just show up to these hard won locations and paddle out...well, you best think again.
If you've ever looked into the Tofino surf scene you'd know the name Bruhwiler. The Bruhwiler brothers, Sepp and Raph, plus their sister Cath, are responsible for putting Canada on the map in terms of professional surfing.
Understandably I was pretty stoked to get a Tuesday afternoon text from Sepp. 'Tomorrow is on', it read, 'Meet at the dock at 5am’.
Dockside the following morning, Sepp and his boat ‘The Best Day Ever’ (best name ever!) were waiting under the cover of early morning fog that makes boat exploration such a mission. A couple hours navigating in virtually zero visibility and the fog finally lifted giving us the first glimpse of our reef.
The waves were fun. Not as big as we hoped, but fun no less. Everyone made the most of what it was and came in stoked. It didn’t matter that it wasn't pumping, everyone was still buzzed on the setting. I think for these guys it's almost like the old Jeremy Jones quote: The journey is the reward. Maybe someone else said that first, Buddha or Steve Jobs or Kelly Slater, but I'll credit it to the big mountain snowboarder.
Every surf that these guys go on is a well-planned mission, and it has to be, because something as small as a wet wetsuit means missing out. It's not like you just need a board and trunks and you're good to go. Uh-uh, there's a whole list of things that you need to tick off just to surf, let alone score.
They really earn their waves up here, and I think that's why they love it so much. Each surf trip is truly an adventure where you never know what could happen. Yeah, by the end of the trip your clothes stink of fire, you’ve eaten more canned food than a prepper in his survival bunker, everything is wet, while a warm bed is all you can think of. But then you get home, have a shower and a good nights sleep, then before you know it you're watching the weather charts looking to do it all over again!
Swellnet will be on the ground all Canadian summer, so hopefully we can bring you more glimpses into this fascinating surf zone and the people who have pioneered it.
// CHRIS PEEL
A campfire is a must on these trips. It dries your wetsuit, warms your food, and hopefully keeps the bears away.
Brian Kenny on a low tide drainer.
Four guys out? Look again. Old mate is just making sure everything is in order.
Sepp Bruhwiler driving hard off the bottom.
Stepping off the edge of the world.
Sepp swings the axe in big timber country
Kalum Bruhwiler is Sepp and Raph’s nephew. His group is the next generation of surfers up here, yet they still get last dibs in the lineup - for now.
Sepp throwing the fins to the beach with that beautiful Canadian backdrop.
Another well known surfer from Tofino, Pete Devries.
Noah Cohen, another surfer from Tofino going all out in the shallow section. If the rocks don’t get you the bull kelp will.
Andy Jones twisting through a backside pit on a stubby twin fin.