Tofino, oh Tofino. What tales I could tell…
Should I write of my roommate for the trip? The one who’s snoring was so loud, Husqvarna’s Chainsaw division has him doing voice-over work? Or what about the poor bastard who spent his last night in the bathtub, wailing like a Banshee and barfing like a firehose? He thought it might’ve been a bad taco (as if Tofino has such a thing!) but found out the next day it was acute appendicitis. Thank the Gods the cutie didn’t burst on our boy while surfing abroad!
Or perhaps, just perhaps… I should write about another of the Sea to Sky Companions, who got so far into his cups as to think now would be a good time to disclose a failed attempt at a digital dalliance from his far away past. If I was to write about that particular tale, I suppose I’d have to inform the reader that, when I say “digital” I mean like, fingers and thumbs not zeroes and ones. So enamored were we of his drunken disclosure that a new hand gesture for greeting him was conceived, causing much mirth on our end and, I would imagine, a boatload of regret on his. Friends can be heartless, I suppose, especially those who’ve held that designation for 20+ years. But not me. I would never write about so tender a confession.*
How about instead, we stick to surfing and beer? Okie-dokie then! A LOT of beer was drink-drank-drunk on this cold, Tofino weekend. This was mostly due to the fact we got skunked, initially, vis a vis the weather.
These signs were at every beach and were NOT just for us tourists. There wasn’t a soul brave enough or stupid enough to go in the water that day. Think Patrick Swayze at Bell’s Beach in the final scene in Point Break and you’ll get the gist. None of us were FBI Agents, so we ditched all thoughts of grabbing a session, checked into our house, and cracked some jokes and drank some beers. It was late afternoon/early evening when we arrived, so we thought we’d save the Brewery for tomorrow and instead sampled a wide range of beers from both the Island and the mainland.
We had a mixer pack from Steam Works, whose Flagship IPA is a favourite of mine.
We had some Bomber’s from the Longwood Brew Pub in Nanaimo, whose Full Patch Pumpkin Ale was good, if a bit too spicy for my taste. But the here was my problem with Longwood. Hey Longwood? How come your Stoutnik Russian Imperial cost two dollars less at the CB&W a couple K’s away than at your actual brew pub? I feel like I got burned a bit there… I mean, it was good and all, but seriously. A two dollar difference? And the more expensive option is the actual source? Weird. Or maybe I just don’t understand economics. Great stout though!
If you haven’t heard of Love Shack Libations, they’re a boutique brewery based out of Qualicum Beach, who release very small batches of very good beer: seek them out when you can.
We also had a sampler pack from Jackson’s Brewery out of 100 Mile House, which my buddy Eric brought back from a recent trip. The beer was… okay. We’ll give’r another try next summer when Eric returns to the scene of the crime.
I also brought along some beef jerky from the lovely ladies at Craft Jerky, a new company out of Squamish. I reviewed the product in Episode 2 of my podcast, but as they’re a new company with an awesome product, I just wanted to give them an unsolicited plug right here and now: check’em out, their jerky is the Business.
The next day, the ocean was still angry, but not so perturbed as to stop us from at least trying to surf. We all slipped into our neoprene tuxedos and proceeded to get pummeled for an hour or so. For the record, I can surf, and if I had to put a label on my skillset, would classify my abilities as beginner/intermediate. I did NOT catch much in that tuff session, as the waves were choppy and quick to close-out. Being a west coast kid, though, catching a wave is almost secondary to the feeling of just being, out in the water. Once you paddle past the madness and are bobbing on your board in the line-up, there’s a sense of connectivity to nature that’s hard to describe. It just feels good out there, floating along to whatever rhythm the Pacific provides. Even getting thrown into the washing machine from time to time ain’t so bad. It reminds you that you’re alive. At least, for the moment.
After we trudged back to base and got hot in the hot-tub, it was definitely time to visit the Tofino Brewery. This hallowed ground was one of the first craft breweries I fell in love with on my journey towards enlightenment and it’s existence is now forever entwined with Tofino’s mythology.
I’d hoped to sample Tofino’s Spruce Tree Ale, but that seasonal release had already been chopped down to make way for the Cosmic Wave: a 9% DIPA whose roots are more West Coast than the current haze craze I’m on. This amber beauty was strong, and fit right in with the storm-spawned swells that came crashing down on us earlier.
Our many growlers were filled to the brim with Tuff Session Ale and Kelp Stout. They’d run out of my fave, the Hoppin’ Cretin IPA, but had some bombers available so I grabbed a couple to fill out my dance card. Tofino Brewery makes great beer, and they’re currently in the throws of expansion. Not wanting to drift too far out to sea, they’re moving into the building next door. The new digs will feature a larger, open concept tasting room (complete with Lounge License) that will allow customers to gaze greedily through the all-glass garage doors and into the newer brewing facility. This is fantastic news, as their old tasting room was great, but tight, and the old license limited your intake to 20 precious ounces. The new digs should be ready to serve the surfer sometime between the end of November and the end of 2017.
There were also rumours afoot of a brewery opening up in Ucluelet, some time in the next year. In an old Church, no less! It does make sense though. People find religion in the Ocean, why not consecrate and celebrate the Water Gods in a once and future House of Worship? Picture this: a baptism in the waves of Cox Bay, a trial by fire in the transitions of Ukee’s skate-park, then sipping from the chalice at the Church? It’s gonna be hard to remain an atheist, I’ll tell you that much!
We continued our consumption back at the compound, but moderated a bit so we’d be able to take advantage of the break in the weather the next morning. The Tragically Hip documentary (Long Time Running) was on CTV that night, in commemoration of Gord Downie’s passing, and that also cast a somewhat somber mood over the evening. When I went to bed that night, my hope was that my room-mate’s snores from the night before were an anomaly. They one hundred percent weren’t. I took my mattress and pseudo-slept in the hallway.
The next day was, as promised, not quite so stormy. The sets were still pretty much one on top of the next, so it was hard to get out there and difficult to pick your spots. But everybody (even little ‘ol me) got some that day and the stoke was palpable. I only wish my body could fully accommodate my desire. Can I just say this one thing? In case you didn’t know, the act of surfing is fucking hard. So hard, in fact, that I’d previously written a treatise on the subject when I was in Hawaii several years back. It still applies so I’ll put it right here:
Surfing is…hard to fathom.
It’s intimidating in that you’re trying to put one over on the sea. Poseidon is pummeling the shoreline with his ceaseless supply of energy and you have the audacity to think you’re just gonna hop on and dipsy-doodle your way back to the beach? Ha!
It’s also intimidating in that no one who’s out there really wants you to be out there. You don’t belong, you’re going to get in the way, and even if you sort of know what you’re doing it’s a numbers game: Every extra body out there equals one less wave to be caught by those who feel a sense of ownership or entitlement to said wave. But you have to get over that.
And once you get over that you find out that surfing requires a LOT of effort for not necessarily a lot of positive outcome. Depending on your position in the water, the break, the set, et cetera, you have to paddle your ASS OFF to put yourself in a position to ride that Briny Bastard in. And it doesn’t matter what shape you’re in or how athletic you are (or how athletic you think you are) you simply cannot jump into a two hour long session, two sessions a day for days at a time and not be absolutely shattered, physically. The sport is just too hard. My arms are dead weights lying lifelessly at my sides. My shoulders are twin volcanoes of burning agony. My abs are so tired from balancing my big ol’ belly on a wobbly board in the bobbly sea that now just breathing gives them reason to cry out. But you have to get over that.
Why? Why do you have to get over the mental intimidation and physical exhaustion? Because catching a wave and surfing it in is the coolest feeling there is, bar none! Because every once in awhile you CAN put one over on the sea. I can’t lift my left arm above my head right now, but if I can push myself off the bed tomorrow without screaming then I’m gonna push myself up off the surfboard shortly thereafter. As I said, it’s hard to fathom.
So there’s that. I was pretty sore, but that’s what beer and hot-tubs are for!
The bottom line is this: Tofino is an amazing place. If you’ve been before, then you already know. And if you’ve not made the trip, you just have to go. The fact there’s a craft brewery of such high caliber and esteem only adds to the mandatory nature of this journey. Go. I can say no more.
*Apolitically Correct/Tone-deaf Alert! I’d penned this paragraph before coming home to hear of all the awful things awful men in positions of power had exposed men and women to in the news. The men I’m referencing are, in order of my hearing the stories but certainly not limited to, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K. and most recently Brand New’s Jesse Lacey. I was going to pull the paragraph from my post, as it alludes to a rebuffed attempt at a sexual act (which, in my day, was called getting to either second or third base: I can never remember which, as I was never good at baseball.) I decided to keep it for a couple of reasons: the event took place in high-school 25 years ago and it was the story of a FAILED dalliance. At it’s core this was one young man’s attempt at getting to third base and one young lady saying, “Not today, fella!” and that was it. It smelled, not of misconduct, but of two adolescents on equal footing finding their way thru the trials and tribulations of youth. The story was a funny and typical (not right or wrong but ‘typical’) tale of teenage life, so it stayed. And my sincere apologies to anyone who was offended by it’s implication or inclusion.