Can you surf the freezing cold waters in Canada? | Olympic Outposts

Can you surf the freezing cold waters in Canada? | Olympic Outposts

When people think surfing,
they think hot, sunny beaches, but not in Tofino, Canada, which has emerged as surfing’s
newest and coldest destination. Here, water temperature gets as
low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit. And once you get out of the
water, it’s not much warmer. I’m headed north to see
what the big deal is, and to try to understand
why the locals don’t let the cold stop them from
performing at their best. My name is Kaleigh
Gilchrist, and I’m an Olympic gold medalist
in water polo for team USA. But I’m also a pro
surfer who has been surfing since the age of eight. Right now, I’m traveling to
Tofino, Canada, a small town on Vancouver Island
with a population of less than 2000
people, and I’m headed there to try
surfing in freezing water. Tofino is known to get
lots of extreme weather. All that bad weather
makes for good surfing. I’ve surfed in warm
waters, but now it’s time to try
something different. My first stop is to meet with
Noah Cohen, a local surfer who grew up in Tofino, to see how
surfing has gained popularity over the years. So what would you describe
cold water surfing as? The biggest
difference, obviously, is that you’re covered in
five millimeters of rubber, and not free and loose
and limber, like you are on board trunks or bikini. But I think it can stunt
progression a little bit. You’re pretty stiff. But it also kind of gives
you like this opportunity to go out and catch waves every
day without a ton of people, because it’s so much less
crowded than somewhere warm
and inviting. So for me, I just love
being able to go to places that aren’t full of people. You know, if you take a
boat for an hour or two, you can go surf
completely by yourself and look around and see
nothing but trees and wildlife. That’s a pretty
special feeling. Have you seen the surf
culture in Tofino change at all over the past few years? When I first started,
being a surfer I wasn’t like a cool
thing to do at all. It was much more blue collar-y
feeling, a lot of loggers and a lot of fishermen. There was plenty of days where
I’d paddle out in the winter, and literally there would
be not a soul on the beach. What’s your plans for
Tokyo 2020 with surfing inducted into the Olympics? The Olympics have always
been kind of like, you know, the paramount and that level
of the best of the best, and when I think about
it, it definitely gives me goosebumps to think that
there is a chance to go. Another Tofino surf
legend is Pete Devries. Champion Peter Devries. I met up with him
at a local surf shop to find out what
kind of wetsuit I’ll need to stay warm while
surfing in the cold water. So wetsuit’s obviously
the most important thing when you’re surfing
in cold water. What would you
say have been some of the advancements from when
you started surfing to now? The cut and the fit
of wetsuits in order to allow mobility while
paddling and while surfing has increased tenfold. Cold water surfing, it
takes a lot of dedication. The coldest part is
the initial suit up. If you’re suiting up
outside, you know, the cold obviously can be
really challenging at times. What would you
suggest to wear here? Let’s go check it out. -I’ll get you something.
-Cool. So down south, I only
have a three mil booty, so I think I need
some new booties. -Yeah.
-What should I get? I’d say these seven mil
dry locks look pretty good. -OK.
-Those will be good. Yeah, let’s get you
a five mil suit. -There.
-All right. You’re going to have to
get it on super quick when we get outside here,
so you should probably do a test run in there. All right.
You want to time me? Yeah, let’s do it. Ready, set, go. -What am I at?
-I’m not telling you. Got any arms in there yet? What arms? -How’d I do?
-Look at that, 2:10. -That’s not bad, right?
-That’s pretty good. We’ll have to see when
you get out in the cold. OK. We’ve come to Chesterman Beach. The air temperature
is 50 degrees, and the water is even colder. I’m about to head out for my
very first cold water surf session. I didn’t really
know what to expect. I walked out there
and I don’t think I felt the water
until it hit my face. I think, though, just
the last 15 minutes I started feeling it a little
bit in my feet and my hands. So I surfed down south in
Newport, Huntington a lot, and notorious for
Surf City, USA, so you’re going paddling
out with 50 to 100 of your best friends
trying to get one way. And then you paddle
out here, and you can catch anything you want. There’s nobody out. So was that like a
typical day for you guys? Yeah, it felt like
summer, almost. That was like a
little summer session. After a surf session, we
love to you know, get changed and go grab some tacos. What do you think? How do they compare to
the tacos down south? Maybe some fresher
fish than down south. What were you
thinking this morning when you put on that five mil? It wasn’t too bad. It was actually pretty
warm in my suit. There was a couple of waves
this morning where I stood up, and you can’t really move
your feet with booties, you’re kind of like
stuck in place, so I was a little
off with standing up and couldn’t really
feel my board as much with the thickness
of the booties. Especially in quick
conditions like that, like shuffling them
around takes a little bit of getting used to. Being in Tofino
is a bucket list spot, so I’m psyched I’m here
and got to surf. But sun came out,
so I think it’s time to paddle out for
another session. -What do you guys think?
-Let’s hit it. Any special way to do this? Well, the tide’s going
off right here, I think. OK, yeah. That’s where we lucked
out with the weather. February in Canada,
not too bad, so it was a big success,
I think. Yeah, sunshine this time of
year is rare, so it was great. This felt like a nice
little summer day. We had our own little zone both
times, too, which is sweet. Like nice to not deal with
any other people in this side of our sea. It doesn’t happen
in California. Yeah, exactly. So surfing Tofino is rad. I’ll definitely be back. It’s up there with one of my
favorite places I’ve ever been, which is pretty cool,
and obviously it was an honor to surf with
the legend of Tofino. Surf a new spot that’s
been on my bucket list. Our pleasure. Yeah, totally. Meeting Pete was awesome. You know, everyone knows who
Pete is, and Pete is a grom, and he goes on
every single wave, so I might need to take
a page out of his book and start doing
that at home, get more opportunities
on waves. Not sure if I’ve been converted
to a cold water surfer, but I want to come back, and I
definitely will at some point. Being here in Tofino
was a dream come true. The local community
is amazing, and you can tell surfing in Canada
in cold water is a passion. You have to be committed,
day in and day out, to get in that cold water,
and it’s a lifestyle.

Antonio Breitenberg

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11 thoughts on “Can you surf the freezing cold waters in Canada? | Olympic Outposts

  1. Michaëlle Moundaya says:


  2. Tin Toosh says:


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    Fearless! 🏄😱

  7. yg roling says:

    Tofinos not that cooled in February

  8. This is perfect says:


  9. Ori Friedman says:

    I am surfing and my dad was the best water polo player in israel

  10. Drew Parker says:

    New thing for my bucket list 🤙

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    Who's here from whistle vid 🤘

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