Take a moment and listen to your breath. Inside it is the cadence of the ocean, the push and pull of an endless tide. In Tofino and Ucluelet you can feel that breath come to life—you can sleep and wake to the crashing heartbeat of the Pacific Ocean through your window. It is a place in tune with the rhythm of a wild and wonderful life.
While the Comox Valley lays nestled beside the Straight of Georgia, the vulnerability of the open coast is different. It could be the sweeping landscape of rugged cliffs dropping into slate-gray swirls of turbulent water, or the coziness of a wood fire coaxing you to warmth after a stint in the ceaseless rain. Perhaps it’s the fact that you can hear the breath of the earth within the silence of ancient rainforests, and feel it in the constant rejuvenation of the endless beaches. You feel a closeness to Vancouver Island’s heart and soul through coastal elements.
I visited the west coast every summer as a teenager, swearing that one day I would call it home. After years of waiting, it finally happened. I ran in the shelter of forests, and stood at the edge of the earth in the winter, watching the brute force of Mother Nature with a renewed sense of awe. I felt more alive in Ucluelet than anywhere else. With summertime days as a surf beginner a distant memory, I lay listening to the ocean at night. It was calling me. And so I went.
On the beach, you are lulled into meditation as you watch the waves swell and swoon with their love of the shore. Within those waves, surfers find their own meditation in a watery dance. These are the people of the ocean, and each has learned an important lesson by being beyond where worried toes can reach the sand—that the ocean is more than just a playground. She is a formidable ruler that demands respect. As you feel the ocean’s icy fingers pierce your scalp while fighting under a wave, or the force of her hand on your chest holding you below, you discover that she takes as easily as she gives. However, with the right amount of respect and understanding, she is also forgiving. Suddenly, you are aware that the ocean is the soul that surrounds Vancouver Island.
You don’t need to be a surfer to sense the essence of the ocean, dangerous and delicate, but for me, it wasn’t until I was hyperventilating with leaden arms that I truly understood that we are at the mercy of the elements we claim to tame. I sense it every time I surf. Sometimes I soar and nothing else exists except the board under my feet, the rush of my heart, and the wave that I dance with. Other times, I go under and am forced to surrender my unwilling body to the tumble and rip of the ocean. I have floated on calm mornings mesmerized by the shape of waves, suddenly seeing how the crest makes a sweet ribbon curl in the light before cascading down the face. After a long, solo surf, I have dragged my salt-soaked body back to shore only to watch two humpback whales, a mother and a baby, take turns surfacing, pushing out great puffs of mist in time to the chambers of my racing heart. I have never felt so truly and deeply in tune with Mother Nature than during these moments.
The raw elements of Vancouver Island’s west coast are both undeniable and contagious. Through its intensity, the coast creates a humbling reminder of the fragility of being human. It reveals an awareness of our impact on the beautiful areas we claim as our own, and a desire to respect them. In its untamed embrace, it’s easy to see that Vancouver Island is just as alive as we are. It has a soul. Ucluelet and Tofino are destinations worthy of relaxation, meditation, adventure, and whatever else, but beg a return visit for the reminder that we’re all connected through the essence of the ocean.