While every summer has to come to an end, in Tofino, fall is when we exhale, then breathe in misty ocean air. There may be larch-covered valleys or orange tree-lined lakes elsewhere, but Tofino has its own kind of fall magic. We call it surf season.
After summer, time tends to slow in Tofino to a relaxed, easy pace and the waves begin to grow. With winter approaching, storm season is on the horizon. And this remote coastline starts to unveil cold-water waves that are both breathtaking to admire from afar, and heart-racing to enjoy in the water.
Surfers from around the world flock to Tofino to challenge this upcoming winter swell in autumn. The winds and waves work together to form the perfect conditions. From ankle-high longboard waves to overhead beach breaks, fall’s ocean waters provide an abundance of opportunity for any surfer looking to explore this idyllic coastline.
What can you expect from fall surfing in Tofino?
To sum it up, you can expect more calm than summer and more opportunity to find larger, more challenging waves. Regardless of your ability, the fall in Tofino provides waves for everyone. On small days at Chesterman Beach, beginners flock to the coast to try small, clean longboard and soft-top waves. On larger days, surf pros explore Cox Bay and Long Beach in search of cold-water barrels and fast waves meant for shorter boards.
Embrace the cold water
Colder weather also means… colder water. Now’s the time to switch out of those spring suits and start ramping up for 5mm booties and gloves. Some days will be warmer than others, so come prepared. Rental shops in Tofino such as Long Beach Surf Shop, Storm, and Live to Surf have everything you need for any water temperature you meet. Embrace the cold water and feel the invigoration; visitors here are some of the bravest surfers out there for the ability to learn in challenging conditions.
Watch a local surf event to see the pros in action
In the fall, the community of Tofino comes together. Throughout the season, surf pros battle it out in friendly competitions that are a thrill to watch. Beaches come alive with sponsorship tents and activities, and evening events animate the village.
Here are some of our favourite Tofino autumn events:
- Bruhwiler Kids Classic
When: September 14th (All day) – It’s a contest for the kids, however there’s activities for everyone at this beach day. From expression sessions to competitions, surf gear is available if kids don’t have their own and there’s free registration. In addition, local non-profit Surfrider Pacific Rim will award its third annual “Best Youth Environmental Steward”, complete with a remote beach clean party and swag bag from local sponsors.
- Queen of the Peak
When: October 4th-6th – You’ll want to plan for the 10th anniversary of Queen of the Peak this October. The growing women’s surf championship created in 2009 by local favourites Surf Sister and Shelter Restaurant showcases female surf talent on the Pacific Rim. This inclusive weekend celebration features a competition with a family-friendly beach vibe plus off-the-water events including art shows, yoga, surf film premiers and an epic wrap party.
- Tofino SUP Surf Weekend Course
When: October 11th-13th – This fun and friendly paddle-board surf weekend is designed to introduce paddlers to the ocean, with teaching sessions both in and out of the water. With technical coaching from pros including Tofino’s Catherine Bruhwiler, learn everything you need to know to be safe in the ocean and have a really incredible time paddle surfing.
- Tuff City SUPtoberfest
When: October 18th and 19th – Going beyond traditional surfing, this SUP (stand up paddle board) surf competition is guaranteed to provide good times, in the water or on the beach. There are multiple board divisions, and judging criteria will emphasize on both short and long style manoeuvres.
Fall surfing in Tofino has its own variety of “colours”: While there will be storm watching as the wind starts to pick up and the swell begins to grow, there will also be mellow beach days, inviting you to jump in and out of the water as the sun sets in the horizon. Traditionally, surfing is seen as a challenging activity, but it’s also an opportunity to build community, and overcome fear together.
Chasing cold water waves in Tofino is an activity for all, whether you simply want to surround yourself with beaches and rainforest to watch at a local surf competition, or come out to seek the growing waves. Find a bit of solitude, and some swell, and get grounded, so to speak, in this cherished place. We’ll see you out there.
To book your own surfing experience in Tofino, visit the surfing resources page on Tourism Tofino’s website.