Canada’s main western surf hub, Vancouver Island, has seen a boom in popularity over the past ten years, thanks in large part to continuing progression in the quality and warmth of wetsuits. A popular destination with backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts, Tofino has a number of surf shops, surf schools, and board rentals, all of which do good business in the warmer summer months. But winter is when the real Vancouver shows its face, with bigger swells, stormy weather, and colder temperatures making this Canadian island the classic Pacific Northwest surf destination.

The Surf: In and around Tofino you are looking at mostly user-friendly sand bars, but video evidence is floating around that proves Vancouver Island is hiding a number of high quality reefs and slabs as well. For the most part, Tofino should be considered a beginner surf zone, while the rest of Vancouver Island is an advanced to expert zone (due to access issues and the presence of heavy slabs).

Five Waves Worth Surfing:

Five Waves Worth Surfing:

The Season: Summer is best for beginners, with warmer water, good weather, and user-friendly waves, but the best all around season in Vancouver Island is autumn (September through November).

The Vibe: Tofino is a laid back little surf village that some say is reminiscent of Santa Cruz in the ’70s. Crowds are increasing as its popularity grows, but for the most part people are stoked and friendly. Outside of Tofino, your biggest concern will be the bears on shore and sharks in the water.

Things To Do: Tofino is a cruisy backpacker hub with incredible natural beauty, and much to offer the avid outdoorsman.

Where To Stay: Typical of destinations popular with the backpacker crowd, Tofino has no shortage of hostels and budget accommodations.

What To Bring: A shortboard and a longboard in summer, and a shortboard and a step-up in fall. A 4/3mm wetsuit in summer, and a 5/4/3 with booties, gloves, and a hood in winter. Rain gear and a good pair of hiking boots. Fishing or hunting gear if these are activities that you enjoy.

Getting There: Victoria International Airport is the main gateway into Vancouver Island, although you can also take a ferry from Port Angeles, Seattle, or Anacortes (all in Washington state). Visas not required for citizens of many countries (for more information, visit: Airport code: YYJ.

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