Rugged and Remote // Surfing the PNW
We are celebrating this year’s storm season by living on Vancouver Island (or the “YYJ”, as locals affectionately refer to their seaside home). To commemorate our first tree-studded, rain-soaked, Pacific Northwest winter, Mitch bought a new surfboard and expanded our small, nomadic family. By new, I mean the board is new to him, though she is in mint condition and quite a stunner. Seventy’s orange never did corduroy justice, but slicing through waves on the Cali-shaped, gloss-bronze beauty has a vintage, Farrah Fawcett-like sex appeal.
When we drive the coast in my MINI Cooper that still boasts its California plates proud, I feel like we are one cohesive unit- ready for palm trees but kicking it in the pines.
Growing up in Santa Cruz, California, the shore flaunted a much different sight: massive, moss green waves rolled off the break, tan surfers donned waterproof Zinka, and coastal paths laden with beach cruisers took in the action. Surfing the PNW offers less hype, more seclusion, and a raw taste of the natural world. The drive is windy, the beaches are rocky, the paths are remote, and the sky is a grumbling canvas of unpredictability. Few onlookers grace the shores here- pine laden treks and remote coves attract only pacing dogs expectantly waiting for their owners to re-emerge from the water… and girlfriends like me… arguably doing much of the same.
We arrived on the island mid-autumn and, over the last few months, have witnessed the subtle shift into winter’s grasp- damp weather sits heavy on trees that used to bear almost infinite leaves, and the sporadic chill has turned into a biting, wet cold whose teeth penetrates our best-intentioned layers. Temperatures aside, winter has brought a fresh swell to the PNW as steady as two nerds in high school. Surfers cluster in the water transitioning between moments of serenity and sheer anticipation. Boards are pushed under approaching waves, sending ice-cream sundae shocks to the temples, and bodies snug in wetsuits catapult themselves over crests, satisfied with a good ride.
I have yet to invest in a wetsuit and board (or a tiny house, a rescued mustang, and a food truck specializing in Hawaiian poke), but nonetheless, I am always keen to tag along seaside. I admire the transparency of surfing the Pacific Northwest. There is a rugged minimalism that deserves both respect and reverence. Here, it isn’t about the fancy sunglasses, the coolest bike with a sidesaddle surf rack, or the VW van perched on a cliff and shrouded in prayer flags. Instead, it’s about the escape. The swell. The perfect set. The best ride of the day. And though that sexy board may sit dry tomorrow, right now she shreds.