- Photo creditMarnie Recker Photography
- Photo creditJeremy Koreski Photography
- Photo creditKyler Vos - Queen of the Peak Surf Championship
- Photo creditJeremy Koreski Photography
- Photo creditCourtesy: Outside Break
It's no wonder that Tofino is Canada's surf capital.
The waves keep rolling in along miles of sandy beaches - 35km of surf-able beach break to be exact, leaving plenty of room for all boarders, from absolute beginners to seasoned longboarders.
The water is a cool, yet fairly constant 10°C/50°F, making surfing a year-round activity in Tofino, with some of the best rides being caught during the winter when the surf is definitely up with a strong, fairly consistent swell. A wetsuit is essential, along with recommended booties, gloves and a hood if you want to spend quality time in the water.
Surfing in Tofino all started in the 1960s, when the new Highway 4 to Vancouver Island’s west coast attracted many newcomers. Most of them were drawn to the dramatic beaches and wilderness, and some to the lively beach-dwelling subculture that emerged here in the late 60s. Some of these travelers had surfed before, and began to test the waters here. In the summer of 1968, a small surf school operated on Long Beach and by the mid-70s Tofino was becoming known as a place where small groups of people were surfing regularly during the spring and summer months. Today, some of the owners of Tofino’s surf schools are the offspring of these early surf explorers.
Get started with Tofino surf schools, offering lessons and surf camps, where certified and friendly instructors share their knowledge of proper surfing technique, ocean safety, and surf etiquette. Visit our surf shops for surf gear rentals. They're also the best place for advice on current conditions and where to ride the next (or your first) epic wave during your stay.
In October, Tofitians welcome the best women in surf to the annual Queen of the Peak. This is the only all-female surf contest in Canada, with proceeds supporting local charitable endeavours. It’s an exciting time to be in Tofino, with a week's worth of educational, and entertaining activities to watch and experience.
Here’s a brief rundown of Tofino’s most popular beaches for surfing:
Chesterman Beach is Canada’s most popular beach for people learning how to surf. In 2010, Outside Magazine declared Chesterman “one of the best beginner breaks in North America.”
Located about 8 minutes drive from central Tofino, with ample parking, this is the most accessible beach of all. There are two parts to Chesterman Beach: South and North.
South Chesterman beach faces roughly south, so it is a good place to surf if there is a south swell and a northwest wind (the wind rarely arrives from due north). Access to this part of the beach is just off Pacific Rim Highway / Highway 4 on Chesterman Beach Road. There is a composting toilet facility in the parking lot.
North Chesterman beach faces roughly west, so is a good place to surf if the swell direction is west or northwest and the wind direction is southeast (the wind rarely arrives from due east). Access to North Chesterman is through a large parking lot on Lynn Road, with a new shower and toilet facility.
Some people refer to ‘Middle’ Chesterman as a geographic reference. This is accessed at the southern curve of Chesterman Beach Road and is the point where the sandspit (technically a ‘tombolo’) reaches out to Frank Island. This is a good place to get a strategic sense of the surfing conditions at South and North Chesterman.
Cox Bay is one of the most consistent surfing beaches in the summer months. The beach faces west and picks up smaller summer swells that often elude North Chesterman. Try this beach if the swell is small and from the west or northwest. Ideally, you’ll want a southeast wind or no wind, but both of these winds can be rare in the summer.
The first access to Cox Bay is just south of the Cox Bay Visitor Centre: turn down Maltby Road and then left at the end of the short road into a parking lot. From the parking lot, go through the yellow gate down a short gravel trail through the forest to the beach. There is a composting toilet at the beach end of this trail.
The second access to Cox Bay is at Cox Bay Beach Resort, across the road from the Cox Bay Visitor Centre. Park in the public parking lot and walk the short boardwalk trail to the beach. There are bathroom and shower facilities at the parking lot.
Pacific Sands Resort and Long Beach Lodge have webcams on their roofs overlooking Cox Bay. These cameras can be a good way to check the surf from your accommodation or from your mobile
Long Beach, located in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, is about a twenty-five minute drive from Tofino. Long Beach is without doubt Tofino’s (and arguably Canada’s) most famous beach. Along its 16 km of sand, you will find waves suited to all levels of surfing.
As you approach from Tofino, the first parking lot at Long Beach is signed Incinerator Rock. This location is usually full of surfers of all ages, surfing talk, and of course the latest in surfwear. In the summer months it’s best to park in the second parking lot, signed Long Beach. Please read the signs posted at both parking lots about dangerous currents.
Most of Long Beach faces southwest, so you’ll do best here on a southwest swell with a northwest wind. There are bathroom and shower facilities at both of Long Beach’s access points.