Updated: Jul 28
I felt extremely lethargic getting out of bed. If the hotel wasn’t fully booked, I would have stayed for another night. Nonetheless, I got up, loaded the kayak, ate a breakfast of cereal bars with Nutella, and the remaining candied salmon, before heading to the boat ramp.
I paddled out through the narrow gap between Wickaninnish Island and the mainland while being carried by the ebbing tide. This stretch of coastline is exposed to the southwest swells that roll in from the Pacific Ocean, and although the weather was calm, paddled over immense rollers from distant storms far out at sea.
The beaches south of Tofino are a trendy surfing destination. I read in my guidebook that Long Beach was a prime spot where there was also a campsite with good facilities. Unfortunately, when I called in, the camp was booked solid for the entire summer.
“You could try a little further at Florencia Bay.” My friend Lee responded to a text message while I was on the water.
“Don’t get caught camping there, however, the park police will kick you out.”
His warning reminded me of the time when paddling around Florida, I had pitched my tent on a public beach only to have the park rangers tell me to get back in the ocean just as the sun was setting.
I paddled past the headland and into Florencia Bay. At the mouth of the bay was an islet that shields the north side from the southwest swells making a safe harbor. The waves build towards the south with the decreasing protection of the islet. Today however, the swells were rolling in slowly but with a steep face forming before breaking gently over a shallow sand bank some distance from the shore.
“Perfect conditions for surfing.” I thought.
Unfortunately, every surfer in Tofino read the forecast. They were so numerous on the water that from a distance I mistook them for a raft of sea lions and the beach was packed with a forest of sunshades.
I found a quieter spot where I could land without knocking out the head of a surfer or two. Kayak surfing, it seemed, was not going to be happening today. Even the surfers were waiting in line for their turn on the wave.
Instead of surfing I walked down the beach where I struck up a conversation with a family from Ucluelet. Eventually the conversation came to my journey around the island.
“So do the park rangers really come and check if anyone is camping on the beach.”
“Yes, they do. Every day they come, and they are pretty strict about it. They will almost certainly catch you, but I heard that they normally don’t go to Halfmoon Bay on the south side. You can try camping there.”
They pointed at the small strip of sand near the south headland only visible during the troughs between the swells.
“It’s separated from the main beach by a headland and you can only get there through a very steep trail; almost no one goes there, and I doubt the rangers would want to walk all the way there and have to come back in the dark.”
I thanked them for their advice, got back on my kayak, and paddled across the bay where I squeezed between two rocks to disembark on a small strip of sand. I dragged my kayak behind a large driftwood where the shiny yellow deck would not be as visible from anyone on the main beach and waited until 9:00pm when it was nearly dark to pitch the tent. After the incident in Florida, I am adamant to take all precautions I can.
Sea Kayak Vancouver Island Circumnavigation