In July of 2013 I paddled from Tofino and made my base camp at Blunden Island. The following morning I set out to paddle across to Vargas Island. The crossing is only 2 km at best and conditions were calm. The goal was to photograph the Wolves on Vargas Island and because the crossing was minimal I only brought along a few provisions, minimal food, a little bit of water and that was about it. Upon approaching the beach on Vargas I noticed waves were breaking rather abruptly. I was committed and in the surf zone, having never surf landed before I braced for impact. Needless to say, upon landing I got wet. Fortunately the sun was coming up over the treeline and it didn’t take me long to dry off. I was so focused on the Wolves that I didn’t notice the mid morning winds picking up. What was otherwise calm water outside the surf zone turned into something else entirely. I was stranded, with minimal provisions! Even if I did get outside the surf zone, conditions in the channel were too treacherous for my skill level. I spent the night on Vargas Island by a fire, my PFD served as a pillow and the Wolves my companions.
Conditions improved somewhat overnight and early the next morning I was eager to attempt to get back to my base camp on Blunden Island. Sleeping on a beach and being hungry and thirsty will cloud ones judgement. My first attempt at a surf launch did not succeed, a huge breaking wave on the edge of the surf zone threw me out of my kayak and into some rocks. I sustained several cuts on the sharp jagged rocks. The wave struck me with such force that even one of my water shoes was lost. Fortunately the fire from the night before was still burning so I was able to warm up and plot my strategy for getting off this wretched but otherwise beautiful island. My second attempt was much more methodical, I studied the water for 10-15 minutes and then made my move. I managed to get outside the surf zone and paddled as hard as I could and safely made it back to Blunden Island. It was a rather harrowing experience but I look back on it now as a great learning opportunity.
- Always pack enough provisions no matter what distance or duration when travelling from your base camp.
- Be aware of changing weather conditions at all times.
- Learn how to surf land and surf launch.
Surf landing and surf launching resources