Tofino, Ucluelet, and the Pacific Rim Feature
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Pacific Rim Surfing
The waters might be chilly but Tofino has skimmed its way onto the international surfing map for several reasons. The curvaceous hard-sand beaches framed by rocky headlands are smack on the open Pacific and long swells and sizeable waves are guaranteed year-round; the area is also a rain forest, providing a genuine wilderness experience; and the Tofino region, literally at the end of the road, nurtures a laid-back, even mildly anarchic lifestyle. No surprise then that a distinctive "free style" of surfing has taken root here. Many local surfers eschew competitions in favor of doing their own (surfing) thing.
Unlike warm-weather destinations, full-length wet suits are worn winter and summer alike here, and warm-climate surfers travel to Tofino to test themselves in what's considered a more challenging environment. What they find, along 20 miles of rugged shoreline between Ucluelet and Tofino, are at least four spectacular surfing beaches.
The most famous, Long Beach, together with Wickaninnish Beach, is within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The next beach northward is Cox Bay, arguably the most popular—and most challenging—of the surfing beaches located outside the park. This is where the most skilled surfers launch their boards and where competitions, when they're held, take place. That said, there's space for everyone on this long and lovely stretch of forgiving sand, even for beginners. Several lodges, suitable for families, are located on Cox Bay. Chesterman Beach, the next major beach as you travel towards Tofino, is similarly picturesque and is considered the best beach for those starting out in the sport. Finally, MacKenzie Beach is conveniently close to the town of Tofino.
Take note that the waves and rip currents here present real danger, and first-time surfers are advised to take lessons. Parks Canada employs surf guards at Long Beach in the summer. Wave-hazard signs are posted along the highway and updated daily.
The Pacific Rim Highway, running the length of the Tofino peninsula, includes a separate bike path, and almost any day of the year you'll see surfers, a long board under one arm, cycling their way to their preferred destination. Shorter surfing "skate boards" and "skim boards" are also used here. And as in every sport, surfing has its fashionistas and accessories freaks. Numerous regional surfing shops sell all kinds of add-ons, from trendy outer gear to special surf watches—even "fins" and "traction pads."
While only the most dramatic storms—and they happen here in winter—keep surfers away (and local surfers are out there when it snows), the best surfing is said to take place in spring and fall, when the waves are strong and consistent and the weather more or less cooperates. Lessons and equipment rentals are available year-round.
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