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Surf Spot Highlight: North Chesterman

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When I think of North Chesterman Beach, epic fall and winter sessions come to mind. As early as September, powerful South-East Storms batter the coast, leaving spots like Cox bay and Long beach “maxed-out” with swell. 
That’s when Tofino’s surfing community gathers at North Chesterman to score some of the better surf in the area. Let’s dive into another Surf Spot Highlight and see what makes North Chesterman beach tick.

Where should I surf and what should I look out for?

We can think of North Chesterman beach as three distinct surf zones, each offering sandbar lefts and rights of varying size and power. 

To the north end, we have Henry’s end, which is the most exposed area of the beach. This is a more fickle spot, and requires a special combination of wind, swell and tide to produce some epic rides. Important: although Henry’s point is in front of the main parking lot access, this is not where novices should surf. This is due to submerged rocks and a hazardous rip current that runs along there.

When we teach at North chesterman, we always head further down the beach to a zone known as 
the 30 sign. This is the central stretch of beach in front of the Chesterman beach rock, which sits a few hundred yards offshore. The 30 sign area is more consistent than Henry’s, offering advanced waves out the back, and powerful whitewash for beginners.

Finally we have Frank Island , which refers to the south end of the beach connecting to Frank Island. This is the most protected area of the beach. Waves get increasingly smaller the closer you go to the island. During bigger winter swells, this becomes a go-to local spot with steep, powerful waves and the potential for a good barrel. Be mindful that the sand bar here produces powerful hollow waves that can be hazardous.

When should I surf it?

North Chesterman beach has a similar facing aspect to Cox bay, with one key difference: it is more protected by outer islands and reefs, including Frank Island, Lennard Island and Wickanninish Island, as well as a plethora of rock reefs which can be seen gurgling in the distance on a clear day.

These islands and reefs block a lot of swell from the west. For example, a 5 ft west swell will show up as head high waves at cox bay, and will only show up as 2 - 3ft waves at North Chesterman Beach.

What should I bring?

The beach at North Chesterman is steeper than that of Cox bay to the south. The waves are therefore steeper. This means that the waves are quicker and more powerful, breaking closer to shore. Ride anything from a performance shortboard to your 9’6 Log. 

If you’re surfing here in the winter, be sure to bring your 5/4mm wetsuit and a hood + boots and gloves. This is also an epic place to Storm-watch when the waves are huge, so don't forget your rain gear!

Blog written by Adam Tory

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