I mean, we live in Whistler and get to shred awesome pow all winter. But come the spring when the sun warms everything up the surf calls. I wouldn't dare surf in the winter unless I could wear a dry suit. You would think as a Quebecer growing up in –30C winters, not wearing a toque to high school so I wouldn't mess my crimp, I'd be a little tougher yet I wear my puffy all year round.
This time, it's not just surfing and crab feasts on the beach that is calling but our buddy Dan at Tofino Boating Co. "The Lagoon Float Camp" is ready guys, you've got to come check it out!" Dan's vision and dream is now anchored and awaiting guests to come relax and adventure in Clayoquot Sound, in their own private West Coast retreat. Between his wife's Lauren creative design and Dan's gifted craftsmanship. Together they've created a unique off the grid oasis. A cozy bell tent, cooking quarters, compost toilet, outdoor shower and to top it off, your own private sauna. It's ocean glamping at its best!
Tucked in the protected tidal waters of Meares Island, the Lagoon Float Camp is a quick boat ride away.
Disclaimer: It had been 6 months since our last surftrip. After 3 days of double surf session our aching bodies were screaming for some sauna love so we opted for the boat bump although we could have paddled the distance.
It's 8 am at the crab dock. Fishermen back from a sunrise prawn trap patrol are tinkering, sorting fish nets and talking tackle. As we approach with our wheelied Kahuna Sup bags,(pic from Gopro) they curiously glance in our direction as to what it's in the luggage; this isn't a passenger quay. In the distance, we can hear the puttering of Dan's boat approaching. All I see is a nice big set of white teeth set in his broad grin, oversized shades like a Hollywood star. He's giddy, clearly, he's a morning person. Chancho the fluffy hair boat mascot is perched up at the bow, nose up in the air sniffing the bacon and eggs getting cooked in a docked sailboat nearby.
Dan knows the area like the back of his hand. He points to our route between a few small islands and explains how we should approach the currents, winds and tides in the area. We load his boat with coolers and gear and set out leaving behind a wreck of seabirds fighting over fish scraps. I take over the back bench and stretch my legs feeling the ocean air, its crispness and stimulating scents. It invigorates my body and soothes my mind. I often wonder about living like an ocean dweller on the Pacific Northwest...in the summer
On the way Dan explains how Meares Island's pristine ancient forest, now part of the Unesco Biosphere Reserve, was once threatened by the BC government allowing big logging companies to harvest 90% of its old growth. We're talking about pristine rainforests, home to some of the oldest western red cedars, endangered spotted owls, bears, wolves and aboriginal tribes who have cared and sustainably lived off the land for hundreds of years. Fortunately, with help from a group called Friends of Clayoquot, the Nuu-chah-nulth(Nootka), First nation in whose territory Meares is located were granted the first legal injunction in Canadian history. And to this day Meares remains unlogged allowing nature lovers to hop on a water taxi and hike Lone Cone mountain and stroll the Big Tree trail boardwalk to the hanging garden.
The anticipation to get to the camp is making me hungry. Last time on a boat cruise with Dan we feasted on camp fire roasted oysters picked from the beach at low tide along with a salad garnish with fresh sea asparagus. It has this incredible lightly salted taste, crunchy and juicy. An oceanside delicacy that I now crave.
At first sight, it's exactly as I thought, a sweet little camp all alone and secluded, floating peacefully. As soon as we dock Chancho jumps out and promptly goes and sits by the tent door. Dan rolls his eyes. “Chancho made the tent his personal quarters, this is where he hangs out. Looks like the prince wants in!
We crack a cold beer, sit back on the dock and chat about how the camp came to fruition. 10 yrs he had the dock. Gathered materials with his father from various old (decommissioned) fish farms. Scoped out the area. Now time to pump up the boards. We brought the iSUP Braddah and the Touring. Both are great choices for today's condition and are our go to adventure boards. The breezy wind coming from the SW is light and the sun is shining, we're in luck! We strap our camera gear and set out to explore while Dan heads back to pick Lauren up for dinner.
Meanwhile our paddle is straight out of a National Geographic magazine. A cute seal has been curiously following us from a distance. As we round the corner and into shallower waters, a couple of bald eagles(pic) are swooping back and forth, catching small inshore fish. (joke about trying to photograpgh a flying bird) Oyster catchers hanging out on a small rock (pic). The shallows are teaming with crab and we spotted a glimpse of a sea otter floating around a bed of sea kelp.
On our way back, we paddle by an oyster farm(pic) which use stranded ropes hung down from floating barrels creating colonies of oysters. This deep-water method makes up an artificial reef where a myriad of marine life thrives. Those oysters are mainly for the shucked market (meat only) and are a great sustainable source of food. Allright, I'm hungry again! Let's find some more sea asparagus for tonight's dinner.
Back at the camp, Lauren and Dan are comfortably relaxing in the bean bags soaking up some sun. And he's fired up the sauna, how cool is that! We hastily strip down for a heavenly sweat fest before jumping in the ocean and cycle again. Feeling revived! As the sun slowly sets behind the Lone Cone mountain, we gather around a comforting and most delicious seafood chowder. And already making plans for tomorrow's downwinder.
What a treat !
The downwinder: It's our last day and, with Dan we settle on putting in at Mackenzie Beach and drifting to Weigh West marina. The morning wind is quite calm so with the flow we go! It's perfect, we paddle out with the rising tide gently pushing us towards our desired direction. Snapping along, singing along on this beautiful sunny morning. Paddling by Tonquin beach where we spot a couple shy seals pocking their heads inquisitively staying at a safe distance. As we start wrapping around the peninsula near First street dock in town, the cross currents are unmistakable and reminds us to keep a sure foot while the boards wobble between the sea kelp beds. Dan is waving, exchanging quick chats with a cruise captain, a floatplane pilot, a couple fishing guides, he's well known on the ocean side. The reaction is unanimous. They all wish they could enjoy this day in Tofino on a SUP.
By: Karine Choiniere @chaweeny
I love my boards but it I don’t pamper them. They have been dragged across rocky shores, through forested river banks and over and under log jams.
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