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The Raw Wilderness

Surfing for the first time in Tofino, British Columbia

At Tomquin Beach, Seamus and I were sitting on a driftwood log, contemplating the waves. It was Friday afternoon; the sun was shining and burning my pale skin along the way. The cheap wine was slowly getting me drunk, not that I planned it but I was enjoying its soothing effect. He was a stranger to me as much as I was a stranger to him; we had only met near my hostel. I was by myself in Tofino to watch the Rip Curl Pro, a surf competition happening once a year in Canada. Seamus was the typical skateboarders, Vans on his feet and skateboard in his hands, with light ginger-blond hairs and a tattoo on his right arm, the meaning still unknown to me.

’Why are you so obsessed with surfing?’’ he asked. ‘’I don’t know,’’ I said. ‘’I really don’t know. The ocean just looks so mysterious and powerful. It seems like the only place on earth where the nature claims his rights over the humankind. A place where even though you tried, you will not have a single inch of control to exercise. When you surf, you don’t worry about a thing, the only thing you’ve got in your mind, it’s to catch that wave, even if it takes forever.’’

He smiled. He understood what I meant, nothing else needed to be said. It was exactly 20 hours and 20 minutes before my first surf experience that I came to a conclusion. Somehow many of us are mad for the unknown, and it doesn’t mean you’re illogical or anything like that.

The sun started to go down and we bump into two friends of Seamus on the beach, so the crew and I decided to move on to a well-known place, The Shelter Restaurant. A couple of encounters later and way too many beers the night came to an end around midnight at the Jack Pub’s.

I had to get up early the next day to chase the waves for the first time. Next thing I know I was on my way to the beach in a grey truck from Westside Surf School in a black wetsuit under a powerful green/yellow T-shirt. It’s Saturday morning, the wind was whispering in my ears and made my hairs go wild. The car stopped in the parking of Long Beach, which is about 10 minutes drive from the surf shop in the village, between Ucluelet and Tofino. Following the path to the beach with the bright sunshine to warm us up, it was a perfect day of May.

Fifteen minutes of stand-up (kind of push-up on our boards) and life minding instructions later, was the ultimate challenge: surfing for real. Surprisingly the water wasn’t cold at all, it just felt cozy, almost enveloping. Then came the action, gliding on the small waves to go further and further until a great wave dare to show up. That day, the waves were smooth, perfect for our level I would say. I heard that sometimes they were pretty rad but most of the time you had to wait patiently 5-10 minutes to catch one. But that was part of the fun.

I didn’t mind waiting, looking at the horizon and trying to connect with the ocean was simply the most natural thing you had to do. I was fixing this blue horizon where the sky is merging with the water, when I saw that wave coming, I had to get it! I turned the nose of my board in the right direction, jumped on it while trying to be graceful (some practice was definitely needed) and as soon as I felt the wave pushing me, I started to paddle the strongest I can, paddled, paddled and paddled. Then jump on my Longboard in the dog position and as soon I tried to move my feet on the best spots to be able to stand up, the ocean simply caught me in the current, letting my board fly in the sky with my leg attached to it and my whole body still in the water. I stood up with a delicious salty taste on my lips, my blond hairs all over my face and my hands searching my pink board, laughing delicately while enjoying the powerful waves.

Photo credit: Jeremy Koreski

I tried again during over 2 hours non-stop, failing every time but never giving up. I wasn’t good, but I was in love with it. I watched the waves being created and hitting the rocks, I looked at the endless forests and all those surfers waiting for the perfect moment to catch up the swell, I looked at myself trying to stand up on my board even though it was pretty clear I wasn’t going to be able to make it.

‘’I can do it’’, I told myself, eyes shining with motivation. 

Into the Canadian surf scene?
Discover one of Tofino’s legend, Stefan Aftanas, right here.

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