This article originally appeared in the first issue of Boundless Magazine in November 2020.
Writer | Joy Pecknold
On the west coast of Canada, this remote surf town is synonymous with summer, yet during winter Tofino comes alive in a different way. Not only is the surfing better, but the colder season doles out another invigorating activity: storm watching. Like it sounds, it involves bundling up and wandering across wide stretches of sand while the weather rumbles in, bringing gales, dancing rain, and towering waves.
Standing on the beach, as though I’m a child again, I cast my arms wide and let a gust engulf me. Like the spruce trees that frame the shore, my limbs are pushed back by the power of the wind. This is why I come to Tofino, British Columbia: to turn down life’s clamor and turn up nature’s reverberation. This time of year, it’s at 11.
Tucked away on Vancouver Island, with the whole of the wide-open Pacific Ocean for a front yard, this small coastal town becomes its truest self after summer tourists depart and beaches empty. Mother Nature reveals her wildest side, and her release brings about mine. As soon as I put my feet on sand and feel the force of nature, my body relaxes and my head clears. There’s nothing to think about beyond the rhythm of the ocean.
I follow the shoreline and the only two people I pass nod hello—it’s clear we’re here for the same reasons. Refreshed, I move inside. Maybe I’ll read a book. Maybe just watching what’s unfolding outside is enough. If I were to put on music, it’d be jazz or classical, but the wind-tossed rain tapping on the roof and peppering the glass provides its own backbeat. I light a fire and through the picture window, watch the storm continue to build, bringing with it a parade of two story-high waves that crescendo against rocks or peel over one another.
Given the waves never stop rolling in, surfing is the extracurricular activity of choice for Tofitians young and old. Enamored with the ocean, I can’t resist taking my own plunge. My second attempt came about after an evening at one of the local restaurants. Sitting at the bar, I start talking with the bartender who just so happens to be a longboard champion.
An hour later, he offers to take me surfing. I’ve discovered that while the ocean is cold, the people are warm. The next morning, I procure a winter wetsuit and meet him at the beach. The water is calmer but the weather still puts on a show, changing from rain to hail to sun, punctuated with a rainbow. Here, in the elements and yet out of my element, with a smile so wide it hurts, that childlike feeling rushes over me again.
I’ve since returned dozens of times. Akin to the tide, Tofino keeps pulling me back. While no two storms are the same, how I feel in the midst of them never changes: at once calm and fiercely alive.
Discover more about Super, Natural British Columbia, set between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.