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Top 8 Vancouver Day Trips: Surfing in Tofino, British Columbia

Ride the waves in Tofino, British Columbia, home of Canada's most vibrant surf culture. Surfing in Tofino is a great way to get out of Vancouver for a memorable adventure.

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Where to get surf gear in Tofino

Wetsuits, booties, gloves and a hood are essential gear, particularly in winter. Tofino's many surf shops rent equipment to vacationers, and can provide advice on weather conditions and different beaches. A wide variety of equipment rentals, lessons, day camps and week-long excursions are available through the nine local surf schools and shops, for all levels and abilities wishing to try surfing Tofino's famous waves.   Lessons stress safety, etiquette, and basic technique to start.

Surf beaches around Tofino

Where is that epic wave, the one that lives on in the soul for a lifetime? With an amazing 16 kilometres of golden beach, Long Beach, BC is the single greatest stretch of sand on Vancouver Island and a natural magnet for surfers. Cox Beach, BC boasts more powerful wave action than other beaches in summer. On any day from June through September, Vancouver Island's North Coast is a surfing festival. The exquisite Chesterman Beach varies with the winds, but surely struts its stuff in winter, especially during Vancouver Island's famed storm season.

Tofino surf shops

Tofino's smallest surf shop, Long Beach Surf, offers a big selection of equipment and gear. Live to Surf on the Pacific Rim Highway has a complete selection of equipment and also offers lessons. Storm Surf specializes in high-performance surf gear for boarders ready to take on winter surfing.

Tofino surfing schools

Tofino has at least five surf schools that address surfers of all ages and levels of expertise.  Wheter on a day trip or a week long vacation, travellers can learn to catch a wave and surf the pristine Pacific Ocean waters in Tofino.

Pacific Surf School offers surfing lessons and operates a surf camp. Lessons last three hours, take place on the beach and cover the territory from surfing etiquette to best techniques. Gear is included, and private lessons are available for all levels and ages, making it easy to plan a surf trip without worrying about buying costly gear or travelling with bulky boards. Lessons for people 60 and over are free, if accompanied by a paying customer.

Surf camps are all-inclusive, with two-, three- and four-day options and accommodation at Bella Pacifica Campground. Beaches are chosen to take advantage of the best conditions. Surfing in Tofino is the ultimate adventure vacation.

Surf Sister is Tofino's only all-girl school, but guys ("Surf Misters") are welcome, too. The enterprising outfit offers daily lessons, weekend clinics, teen camps, and the Yoga & Surf Retreat in conjunction with Milagro Retreats.

Vancouver Island riptides

One common danger in surfer heaven is the vicious riptide—powerful currents sweeping out to sea. Strong riptides lurk at either end of Cox Beach and at the south end of Long Beach. Before going to the beach, check conditions at Tofino or Ucluelet surf shops or the Pacific Rim Visitor Centres.

If caught in a riptide, the best strategy for escape is to swim at right angles to the current towards the nearest breaking wave until you're out of it. Then, using the waves for extra push, make your way to shore. If exhaustion sets in, don't be inhibited about yelling for help.

For more information on surfing, drop by the Tofino Visitor Centre; located at 1426 Pacific Rim Highway, about 6 kilometres before the town proper. The Tofino Visitor Centre lies in the heart of Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Open year-round, the Visitor Centre offers many services, including an email accommodations search, and caters to visitors travelling to Tofino, Ucluelet and the Pacific Rim National Park.

For more information and to view spectacular images of the local surf and our local characters, please visit


Thank you to the 2012 Chevrolet Cruze for sponsoring the "Top 8 Day Trips from Vancouver" series.


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