Feature Story: West Coast Dreaming

You don’t see this in Nova Scotia: A beach full of surfers camping.

Addicts have perverse priorities. We order our lives around the illogical pursuit of whatever wholly unproductive task we choose. We are beyond having to explain ourselves. We just do what we need to.

And at some point, every committed surfer will realize that this is their reality. That their decisions are beyond control. That they are addicts. Waves will inevitably become the focal point of all life planning- as it happened with me. On August 31, 2010, I left a career, friends – a life. I packed all relevant worldly possessions into a small car and drove from Nova Scotia, to come here, to BC.

The East taught me how to surf. It’s miles of cobblestone points were my classroom. Waves sent tauntingly from the frigid North Atlantic lit up the coastline. Hurricanes were the disciplinarian; dolling out punishment and reward. But it was the severe cold that kept sessions honest. In short, the learning curve was steep.

Here I continue to learn. I’m learning about West Coast rhythms. To me, BC’s rhythm is foreign. It is slow. Sessions lack a sense of urgency. People wait – on the shore, in their tents – they wait for their moment to surf. They take in their amazing surroundings. West-Canadians appreciate the beauty of their playground, and there is no rush.

I think this is contrasted by a more dine-and-dash mentality out East. Perhaps it’s because of the cold back home. It’s tough to relax when its minus-25 degrees. Or maybe its because the surf is only ever a 30-minute drive away. Most often a surf is a quick dip before you’re probably late for work.

Here each surf is a mission. Each an endeavor, complete with bears (apparently). And you don’t surf before work here.

You call in dead, then surf.

Other differences: Don’t ever let anyone tell you kelp is normal. These thick, ropey messengers from the seafloor give off an eerie vibe. Kelp beds make the surfing arena feel alien. But wind chop is eaten by their lazy flow. And they are a glass factory. But f&*k me they are weird.

The waves are different here than NS, though not necessarily better. The primary differences are due to groundswell here, and windswell there. While waiting for a set in NS, you can typically see the wave coming about a km out. Here they tend evolve quickly from little bumps to head high and breaking in a matter of seconds.

Perhaps the most significant difference between Canada’s two coasts are the length of the swell windows. Weeks! They measure swell windows in weeks here! East coasters think in terms of days sometimes even hours. Maybe that’s why no one here is in a rush.

However I came here searching for that punching Pacific power, and I still haven’t found it. BC’s rhythm had something else in store for me. So far I have found the canvasses more playful than anything. I am still searching for something a little edgy.

In the meantime, reality is setting in: I left my home break. Now I am surf homeless. The search will continue for more critical set ups. I will probably piss off somebody when I find a hike-in spot. But I know they are out there. And I’m gonna surf ‘em.

I don’t have a choice.

Luke Acker is a writer and refugee surfer from Nova Scotia


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