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Catching a wave in Tofino

Its remote, dramatic location, abundant natural beauty, other activities, range of accommodations and food scene have made it desirable to all kinds of visitors

Surf instructor Ania Splawinski makes us feel awesome about being kooks.

Kook, or a Barney, if you prefer, is a beginner surfer and depending on how quickly newbies catch onto the sport, the term is either affectionate or derogatory.

“These longboards you’re riding will allow you kooks to catch the cruisy waves,” Splawinski tells my daughter Grace and I.

The longboards we’re attempting to ride are 2.7 metres (nine feet) long and known as the couches of surfing.

And cruisy waves, while sounding cool, are actually neophyte-perfect since they are tiny.

Grace and I are in the Pacific Ocean off Cox Bay Beach in Tofino, the small surfing town on the west coast of Vancouver Island that’s become an international tourist destination.

Splawinski joins us in the water, picks our waves, gives us a shove, screams at us when to paddle, and eventually stand up on the board to ride the gentle crest of foamy-white water.

My 17-year-old daughter is a natural and is soon showing off atop the board.

I, on the other hand, spends most of the time struggling to stand up and then topple off the board.

Splawinski works for Surf Sister, which isn’t about excluding men from lessons and rentals, but including women.

And men, women and children of all ages and abilities come to Tofino to surf.

Tofino’s roots are in fishing, logging and hippie-surfer culture.

But its remote, dramatic location, abundant natural beauty, other activities, range of accommodations and food scene have made it desirable to all kinds of visitors.

The oceanside town had few cases of COVID-19 and was hesitant to welcome tourists back until provincial medical health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gave the go-ahead for leisure travel, with precautions, within B.C. earlier this month.

As such, Tofino’s summer tourism resurgence is thanks to B.C. locals, which are making up for the lack of Brits and Germans, who generally make up half of all tourists to the region.

A one-hour flight from Vancouver or a ferry and long drive will get you to Tofino from the mainland.

But don’t let hours in the car, including time on winding Pacific Rim Highway, put you off.

The drive is spectacular through dense forest with regular glimpses of jaw-dropping water views.

In fact, in a province full of beauty, Tofino bats above its weight.

Since we’re not diehard surfers, my wife, Kerry, and I and our daughter rounded out our quintessential Tofino itinerary with luxury accommodation, some fabulous dining, hiking and bear watching.

And don’t forget quiet, reflective time for strolling the beach in the mist, and absentmindedly staring at the ocean.

Kerry declared those two simple pleasures the highlights of the trip.

We stayed at Cox Bay Beach Resort in one of its 40 beach suites, which was handy for those aforementioned beach walks and ocean gazing, as well as breakfasts and sun-downer drinks on the patio.

Fine dining took us to The Great Room at neighbouring Long Beach Lodge Resort for crab legs, Shelter in town for salmon surf bowls and the famous Wickaninnish Inn’s Pointe Restaurant in the next bay for pork belly and scallops.

Casual eats included fish and chips at Surfside Grill at Pacific Sands Resort and beef and bean tacos at Tofino’s institution-of-a-food-truck Tacofino in the back parking lot of the Ocean Break shopping complex.

Bear watching with The Whale Centre took us onto the waters of the UNESCO Biosphere-designated Clayquot Sound in a 12-passenger boat.

Besides enjoying the breathtaking scenery, we idled, close up, in front of a beach in the Fortune Channel where a big female bruin paid us no nevermind while she foraged for shore crabs and barnacles at low tide.

Our hiking found us hugging an 800-year-old gigantic western red cedar along the Rainforest Trail in Pacific Rim National Park and strolling through the ethereal mist at Long Beach, which is also in the national park.

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