The sun and surf at Tofino’s Cox Bay make for some memorable experiences for those looking to get up on a surfboard, even first-timers like Tess and her son, Tyler. Photo by Marcus Paladino

TESS VAN STRAATEN: Catching the Westcoast Wave

Our intrepid Monday columnist tackles the surf at Tofino

It’s a beautiful spring day in Tofino. The sun is shining and the roar of the waves crashing against the beach instantly melts all the stress of the week away.

But instead of leisurely strolling along the bay and watching the brave surfers bob up and down in the water, I’m actually going to become one of them.

“As long as you’re comfortable in the water, it’s a very accessible experience for everyone of any age — families, kids, anyone that wants to try it,” explains Long Beach Lodge Resort business manager Samantha Hackett.

We’re staying in a luxury rainforest cottage at Long Beach Lodge, nestled amongst towering trees and just a short walk to the resort’s surf school on Cox Bay Beach, which is one of the best surfing beaches in North America.

My 13-year-old son Tyler, who is up for anything, has always wanted to learn how to surf. And unlike me, he’s fearless. The first step is getting suited up in full wet suits (wiggling into the tight neoprene suits is a sport in and of itself!), booties and optional surf hoods.

Our instructor, Kieran O’Connell, then hands us our boards and we carry them down the beach.

Before we can get in the water, we have to learn how to hold our boards, where to put our feet and, if we’re lucky, how to hop a wave and stand up. It’s easy enough on land so after we have the basics, we trudge out into the freezing water. As waves crash into me, I’m thankful for the hopelessly unflattering wetsuit that’s keeping me warm.

We practice getting on the board and laying on it as we ride the waves to shore. In no time, my son is kneeling on the board and riding white caps. It takes me a bit longer to master, but the first time I ride a wave kneeling, it’s a total thrill. After three successful attempts, Kieran tells us to try standing all the way up.

Tyler does it on his second try and the look on his face is priceless – he’s grinning from ear to ear, perfectly balanced on his board. You’d never know he just learned how to surf! Me, on the other hand? Let’s just say I’m a little less graceful.

Getting on the board is no problem, but, thinking of all the things that could go wrong, I keep waiting too long to stand up and end up riding the board in on all fours. It’s fun, but dragging the board back out into waist-deep water and pushing against the whitecaps to try again is hard work.

By now, I’ve lost count of how many times Tyler has surfed his way to shore. I’m starting to get tired but I’m determined to stand up before my lesson is over.

Grasping the board with both hands, I swing my leg around and stand up for the first time. It’s a little wobbly but cowabunga, I did it! As we carry our boards back to the resort – and the hot tub calling my name — Keiran tells us we should be proud of ourselves because most people need a few lessons before they can get up.

What can I say? It was epic.

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