Marcus Paladino Photography
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SS Pretty Girl

Words by Noah Cohen

“Are you serious?!” I stammered rhetorically as I sat next to the fireplace atop the ship’s deck, sipping a beer alongside captain Rycam. Only as the last slivers of the autumn sunshine disappeared beyond the horizon had a chill finally entered the air. It was hard to believe that this could be a reality, especially so late in the year.

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 This voyage had been somewhat of a pipe dream for us the last couple of years, always talked about excitedly over a few drinks, yet the wheels were never put in motion due to criss-crossing schedules and the notoriously fickle nature of the seas and weather patterns in this part of the world. That is, until now. The models were alight with dark purple, as a massive long period west swell began to march its way towards the coast. Coupled with a seemingly miraculous weather forecast for the latter part of the fall, it truly was the perfect opportunity to pull the trigger on our long awaited dream.

This voyage had been somewhat of a pipe dream for us the last couple of years, always talked about excitedly over a few drinks, yet the wheels were never put in motion due to criss-crossing schedules and the notoriously fickle nature of the seas and weather patterns in this part of the world. That is, until now. The models were alight with dark purple, as a massive long period west swell began to march its way towards the coast. Coupled with a seemingly miraculous weather forecast for the latter part of the fall, it truly was the perfect opportunity to pull the trigger on our long awaited dream.

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 We opted to set sail on a warm and sunny afternoon a day prior to the impending swell, which afforded us a nice and smooth open-ocean commute to our eventual anchorage, a protected bay just around the corner from the cobblestone a-frame that we had set our sights on. The decision proved to be a dandy, as we made the five hour journey in Ryan’s 75-foot vessel in the utmost of comfort, gliding over the slow rolling lines of swell in the warm autumn air, perched on the aft deck and soaking up the sun’s rays. The crew, though initially planned on being kept to a fairly tight number had swelled to nine members, mostly because the minute any of our friends got wind of the adventure they simply couldn’t face the potential dismay of not hopping aboard.

We opted to set sail on a warm and sunny afternoon a day prior to the impending swell, which afforded us a nice and smooth open-ocean commute to our eventual anchorage, a protected bay just around the corner from the cobblestone a-frame that we had set our sights on. The decision proved to be a dandy, as we made the five hour journey in Ryan’s 75-foot vessel in the utmost of comfort, gliding over the slow rolling lines of swell in the warm autumn air, perched on the aft deck and soaking up the sun’s rays. The crew, though initially planned on being kept to a fairly tight number had swelled to nine members, mostly because the minute any of our friends got wind of the adventure they simply couldn’t face the potential dismay of not hopping aboard.

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 The group consisted of surfers Peter Devries, Shannon Brown and myself, as well as lensmen Nate Laverty, Kyler Vos, and Marcus Paladino. Then there was first mate Doug Ludwig, who not only eased the work load for the captain, Ryan Cameron, but also kept the crew in stitches with a multitude of jokes and quips. Or perhaps, it was the same joke repeated a multitude of times, though to no less enjoyment of everyone within earshot. And finally, there was Shannon’s lovely wife Emily, who somehow managed to maintain her nerve amidst all of the raucous boys and their unrelenting silliness.

The group consisted of surfers Peter Devries, Shannon Brown and myself, as well as lensmen Nate Laverty, Kyler Vos, and Marcus Paladino. Then there was first mate Doug Ludwig, who not only eased the work load for the captain, Ryan Cameron, but also kept the crew in stitches with a multitude of jokes and quips. Or perhaps, it was the same joke repeated a multitude of times, though to no less enjoyment of everyone within earshot. And finally, there was Shannon’s lovely wife Emily, who somehow managed to maintain her nerve amidst all of the raucous boys and their unrelenting silliness.

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 As darkness fell, we dropped anchor at a nearby natural hot springs, spending the night aboard the ship but not before heading to shore for a midnight soak in the springs. Numerous pools that range in temperature from lukewarm to liquid magma are etched into the hillside. After clothes and belongings were left at the top, the group stumbled across the rocks and through the darkness, some with the help of a headlamp and some without, but all clad in nothing but their birthday suits. The water glistened and danced in the moonlight that shone through the canopy of trees that surrounded us, and we spent a couple hours enjoying drinks in fits of laughter as Doug and Rycam once again provided the endless entertainment.

As darkness fell, we dropped anchor at a nearby natural hot springs, spending the night aboard the ship but not before heading to shore for a midnight soak in the springs. Numerous pools that range in temperature from lukewarm to liquid magma are etched into the hillside. After clothes and belongings were left at the top, the group stumbled across the rocks and through the darkness, some with the help of a headlamp and some without, but all clad in nothing but their birthday suits. The water glistened and danced in the moonlight that shone through the canopy of trees that surrounded us, and we spent a couple hours enjoying drinks in fits of laughter as Doug and Rycam once again provided the endless entertainment.

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 When we reached the shore at our final destination the following morning, our bleary eyes and foggy memories from last night’s fun quickly evaporated, replaced with excited squeals and blissful cries at what lay before us. Turquoise peeling peaks ran off in both directions, glistening in the midday sun. The crowd was minimal, with only a handful of other local surfers sharing the lineup, and all of whom we were well acquainted with from the beaches back in Tofino.

When we reached the shore at our final destination the following morning, our bleary eyes and foggy memories from last night’s fun quickly evaporated, replaced with excited squeals and blissful cries at what lay before us. Turquoise peeling peaks ran off in both directions, glistening in the midday sun. The crowd was minimal, with only a handful of other local surfers sharing the lineup, and all of whom we were well acquainted with from the beaches back in Tofino.

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 It probably isn’t the best move in terms of etiquette to pull up to a spot such as this in a giant, decommissioned military vessel full of surfers, but we did our best to stagger our paddle-out in smaller groups, and the other boys were certainly far more gracious of our entrance than I likely would have been had the roles been reversed. We traded waves for the next few hours, and there seemingly wasn’t a soul in the water without a grin from ear to ear. It was definitely one of those special sessions that only come along a couple of times a year. And although the waves themselves were amazing, they seemed almost secondary to the weather conditions that graced the day, as well as the breathtaking setting in which the experience took place.

It probably isn’t the best move in terms of etiquette to pull up to a spot such as this in a giant, decommissioned military vessel full of surfers, but we did our best to stagger our paddle-out in smaller groups, and the other boys were certainly far more gracious of our entrance than I likely would have been had the roles been reversed. We traded waves for the next few hours, and there seemingly wasn’t a soul in the water without a grin from ear to ear. It was definitely one of those special sessions that only come along a couple of times a year. And although the waves themselves were amazing, they seemed almost secondary to the weather conditions that graced the day, as well as the breathtaking setting in which the experience took place.

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 Throughout the previous several months, I have been working with Nate on a project that has taken us around the world chasing surf, but we had yet to nail down the trip that we really needed to cement the piece: a boat/camping trip close to home, with some of my childhood best friends in tow, living simply and surfing. In short, doing exactly what made all of us fall in love with the sport, the area, and the people who inhabit it in the first place. At the risk of sounding like a tired cliche, it honestly was the closest thing you can get to the Canadian version of a Mentawaii boat trip.

Throughout the previous several months, I have been working with Nate on a project that has taken us around the world chasing surf, but we had yet to nail down the trip that we really needed to cement the piece: a boat/camping trip close to home, with some of my childhood best friends in tow, living simply and surfing. In short, doing exactly what made all of us fall in love with the sport, the area, and the people who inhabit it in the first place. At the risk of sounding like a tired cliche, it honestly was the closest thing you can get to the Canadian version of a Mentawaii boat trip.

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 The zone that we made our home for those few days is one of the most wave rich on the Vancouver Island coast, and even though we didn’t stray from the bay we began at, there certainly were other options nearby had we been more enticed to leave it. The opportunity to experience such a journey right here in your own backyard is a firm reminder and reinforcement of how amazingly special this area is, and serves as portal into why it is coveted by so many others across our own nation and beyond.

The zone that we made our home for those few days is one of the most wave rich on the Vancouver Island coast, and even though we didn’t stray from the bay we began at, there certainly were other options nearby had we been more enticed to leave it. The opportunity to experience such a journey right here in your own backyard is a firm reminder and reinforcement of how amazingly special this area is, and serves as portal into why it is coveted by so many others across our own nation and beyond.

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  Various images from this trip were published with Surf Sessions, White Horses, Carve Magazine, SBC Surf and    Surfline   .

Various images from this trip were published with Surf Sessions, White Horses, Carve Magazine, SBC Surf and Surfline.