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Skookumchuck Surf: Class III-IV

Published on 10/1/2015
All the good photos taken by: Janine and Nicole, Thanks ladies!
Jon on the Beautiful Skookumchuck wave, BC Canada

Ebb & Flow?! What is this jibber jabber?  WELL, I now know more about the sea than I should ever have to know as a whitewater kayaker… ha!

A crew of whitewater boaters ventured north to Canada to visit the infamous Skookumchuck Rapids, to find out what all the hoopla was about. The Skookumchuck Narrows is located on the Sunshine Coast of B.C. and takes about 6 hours to get there from Seattle, which also includes a 40 minute ferry ride through some of the most gorgeous scenery. Once arriving in Egmont, B.C. we made camp for the next three nights at Strongwater Camping & Cabins.
The Skookumchuck Narrows, aka “The Skook”, is a tidal bore created by massive amounts of ocean water squeezing itself through a narrow inlet and dropping over a wide rock shelf far below the surface. Between tides, there is only flat water, but as the tide begins to “Flow” the magic happens. The amazing transformation from flat water to a standing wave, which boaters from all over the world come to see, is a sight to be seen by boaters and non-boaters alike.
Slack tide (notice the lighthouse on the island)
Shanna Surfing (Notice the lighthouse, the wave is still growing!)

On Saturday morning, we woke to a beautiful blue sky with a crisp nip in the air to start our paddling journey to the narrows. We launched at the Egmont dock and paddled 2 miles with our boats full of everything we would need for our day at “The Skook”, including our hiking shoes and a cold beverage of choice for the 2 mile hike back out after boating.
Town of Egmont
Jon and Aamie getting ready to launch from Egmont Dock


On our paddle to the wave we saw amazing purple starfish, jellyfish, and even a seal in one of the bays.  Once arriving we marveled at the idea of a wave appearing soon so we jumped in our boats to feel the power of the water as the flow increased.  

As the flow reached its max flood of 10.4 knots on Saturday, we watched the calm shoreline turn into a turbulent eddy, the standing wave grew by the minute, and an ever-growing class IV rapid bubbled and churned “down-river”. For the beginners to the Skook, it was important to take the opportunity to get out there right away and surf as much as possible, because as the wave grew so did the rapid behind it.
Once you fell off the wave, it was important to catch the eddy just behind the wave, if you missed the opportunity, you had to do what’s called “Taking the Tour”. Taking the tour consisted of trying to stay upright while avoiding as many boils, whirlpools, and imploding waves as you make your way with the chaotic flow, before getting an opportunity to head for shore, where the current eventually took you slowly back up the shoreline to the wave. A few of us took planned tours, but most of them were definitely unplanned!  For me it was a scary undertaking, where a lot of self-talk happened that consisted of a few unmentionable words – ha!

As the wave grew to its max, we found ourselves retiring at different times to the comfort of the shore until the wave was on the way down. When the wave got to a certain point it was no longer possible to enter from the eddy next to the wave, so instead we had to drop in from above. Dropping in from above was almost seemed easier as you didn’t have to fight the eddy fence guarding the wave, you just had to paddle out, line up and drop in with your back to the frothy white pile. Some made this look easier than others, but we all had a blast. We hoot and hollered for each other as we surfed one of the biggest waves around. At one time we witnessed 5 boats on the wave at one time - now that was cool and the crowd loved it!

Since this wave was easily accessed by a nice trail, there was quite the crowd that grew as the day wore on. As the wave fizzled down to flat water, we locked our boats and gear to the rack and headed out the forested trail.
This old truck/kayak marked the trailhead and an awesome bakery… yum!

As the weekend continued the wave got bigger and peaked just a bit later each day. After each day of surfing we enjoyed the onsite hot showers back at camp, tasty food and laughed around the campfire with great friends! OH what an experience I can’t wait to do it again, but maybe next time during the week so I have more chances to surf ?
All different crafts enjoyed the wave!
Aamie ripping it up!
Matt loving the big water
Clea making it look easy, out there spinning like a champ!

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