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An Ode to An Ocean

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The Pacific Ocean is the relentless stoke machine that makes Tofino the surf hub it is. We have it to thank for producing some of the most consistent surf in the entire world. It’s not just the size and power of this ocean that make Tofino such a wave-rich destination, but also Vancouver Island’s advantageous position and aspect, which allow it to receive swells from a huge spectrum of the Pacific’s wave-generating regions.

(Photo: AJ Roulstone)

Before we go further, it might be helpful to familiarise yourself with the lore of this blog, and brush up on your surf forecasting , so that you can follow along.

What makes the Pacific tick? Let’s start with fetch.

Fetch is the distance over which wind blows across the water's surface to create swell. The longer the fetch, the greater the swell interval becomes as it is groomed into long lines by that consistent wind energy.

As the Pacific is the largest body of water on the planet, it incidentally has the greatest fetch. This explains why, in Tofino, we are lucky to experience swells in the Medium to Long interval range (10 seconds and above), which are cleaner and more powerful than the short interval swells in smaller bodies of water.

(Photo: AJ Roulstone)

Perched on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino’s beaches have a wide exposure to the open ocean, allowing the swell to travel unimpeded.

We are so exposed, that we receive swells from both hemispheres: In the summer months, the storms of the southern hemisphere churn out coveted long-interval south swells that combine with fun short-interval westerly storms that occur closer to home. Then the flip switches in the fall, and the Northern Pacific comes to life, producing powerful, long-interval west swells that slam into the coast, creating epic storm-watching (and riding) conditions.

(Photo: AJ Roulstone)

Each of our beaches has a specific combination of swell and winds that produce fun conditions, and understanding that alignment can help you be in the right place at the right time. Likewise, different spots are typically better at different times of the year due to the changing seasons that produce different wind patterns.

(Photo: AJ Roulstone) 

For example, the prevailing winter winds are South Easterly, bringing notorious amounts of relatively warm precipitation along with it. That flips in the summer to North Westerly winds, which causes us to look at different surf spots to find clean breaking waves.

Intrigued? Check out our spot guides here:

Long beach

North Chesterman

Cox Bay

Finally, this isn't directly related to the physical act of surfing, but it's what makes surfing in Tofino so epic: This abundance of precipitation and consistent water movement contributes to a vibrant and unique coastal ecosystem.

Step carefully over tidal pools glowing with anemones as eagles circle above. Share a wave with a sea lion as a whale breaches out the back, and catch a salmon off the rocks after your surf session. 

(Photo: Cristina Gareau) 

Even the air in Tofino seems imbued with a richness that only occurs in rare corners of the planet. Whether the presence of some supernatural force, like Mana, referred to in Polynesian cultures, or just plain good vibes, Tofino has something special, and we have the Pacific Ocean to thank for that.

Blog Written by Adam Tory

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