We live our lives sometimes on the crossroads between should and must. Also the title of a good book by Elle Luna. A few years back, I watched the “Groundswell” film by the Malloy brothers. The stunning remote waves and brash wilderness called to me. We speak of wills and waves.
Must set the wheels in motion to help orcas in any way possible. Step 1. Apply for an environmental internship from my shop job at Patagonia. The future depends on our actions. We cannot pretend that nothing is happening. We must move away from the fossil fuel debauchery. Luck was on my side. I was awarded an internship to volunteer for the Georgia Strait Alliance in Vancouver, B.C. for five weeks in September-October.
Tasks included gathering signatures in opposition to the Kinder Morgan Pipeline extension, being a presence for GSA at some festivals and other projects, shooting photographs for the Waterfront Initiative and Water’s Edge Day.
This was my first time in Vancouver. An eclectic, diverse city with gorgeous parks hop-skip wilderness, hikes, climbing, sailing, kayaking, skiing and industry at your door step. I was not initially looking to be in a city. The more remote the better for me. For the internship it seemed to make the most sense with having access to the office etc. other folks, getting things done.
One rainy Saturday morning at 7 am, I took the one-hour bus to a three-hour ferry to Salt Spring Island. So excited to visit my friends Snow and Rob, go crab fishing and check out some hikes and the fall fair. Rob entered the smoked Salmon contest and the their daughter Maia showed her dog-in the pet parade in a scarecrow costume no less. Encouraging to see how my friends seamlessly slipped out of L. A. first to Portland then to Bainbridge Island, finally to British Columbia where Snow grew up. Just in time to avoid the shenanigans that our circus is providing back in the good ole U.S. of A. On the ferry back to Van City, I caught a glimpse of full breech and orca family along the ships starboard side. Only the captain and I saw it. It made my trip and my birthday extraordinary.
Tail end of my stay in Vancouver, I had reserved a few days for excursion and again on the bus, to a ferry to Nanaimo. It was a gray, coolish rainy day. Back onto another bus to the B.C. equivalent to the North Shore Tofino. A friend provided a 5.4 wetsuit with a hood, bless her heart! Thank heavens, I had my 3ml booties. No gloves. This is the fairest time for water temps in the area. The first night was spent in this gorgeous botanical garden and the next two in a not-so-splendid motel, but at least it was close to the beach. Would have preferred a sleeping bag and tent but had none of that on this trip.
My friend’s cousin is a heli pilot in B.C.. After a series of messages, he and I had a meal in Kitsilano. We shared stories of travel, surf and I tried to convince him to join me but alas, he had to work. He was generous, funny and kind. He offered to loan me a unique custom board he had stored at a friends in Tofino. Game on.
One girl hits the two-lane highway to catch a few waves in Tofino. The bus droped me off about 1km from the place I was to pick up the board. So happy to meet the wise and bold Giselle Bruhwiler. She was kind as can be. We spoke French as she is from Montreal. Together we chatted about life, love, children and grandchildren, waves, Switzerland and trees. She got me the board, asked Raph to take me to a break he was going to. “I am not coming back this way,” he said. Win some, lose some. Note made for the next trip hopefully with a buddy, camping gear, boards and a rental car. This time I was on foot with a 8’6″ gun-ish type board and a roller bag that was pretty much all wet suit. It poured rain the rest of the day, so I read. When the rain stopped after dinner I took a long walk amidst the trees and stars were so bright.
Next morning I jumped out of bed suited up and traipsed the board over to the beach. It was a large bay. Lots of people. A beginner spot, or several different levels of surf depending how far you are willing to paddle. Eagerly I looked for a left breaking wave. This was my first time surfing in a 5.4 wet suit. Can we say boyant? There were a few hazards the bulb kelp was gigantic and every once in a while a 40′ log. You wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of that. It wasn’t a big day. Thought I’d only last an hour but it was pretty fun. As usual, lost track of time. Hint: That makes surfing a “MUST.” When I could no longer feel my hands, I decided it was time for a hot shower. A French girl Sarah had to help me get the hood and wet suit off. Now friends for life.
So much of the island I cannot wait to explore further. This was a teaser, teaser, teaser of a trip. At least I made my bottom line — in and out of the water safely. Check.
If you would like to help orcas too or want to find out more about GSA. Also chomping at the bit to watch the next Bruhwiler Country.