DUCT TAPE TOFINO

Nate Garcia

PHOTOS: Amado Stachenfeld, Nate Garcia

LOCATION: Tofino, B.C.

“Wetsuit, board, cameras, and pup in tow, we walked down the empty beach to a small cove where less-than-modest surf peeled along the sand and eagles circled overhead. It was small, but at least it wasn’t windy. Ankle slappers beat ‘victory at sea’ any day. And though the Duct Tape may have been the catalyst for our trip, this felt like the true destination.”

My friend Cass was cruising through town to drop off some film at Dexter’s Camera. I was in between running errands and trying to finish up one of many motor projects. Upon crossing paths, we opted to take a break from the day’s tasks and grab some food. Between bites, she asked if I’d ever been to a Duct Tape Invitational.

“Amado and I are headed up to the Duct Tape Tofino event this weekend to check it out!”

“Aw, man! Can I come?” I couldn’t help but asking. I’d never been to Vancouver, and what better reason to go than to watch some surfing?

I’d worked through Thursday, and had to be in Portland the following week — but for once, I had the weekend off. The trip happened to line up perfectly. We parted ways, brimming with stoke, and the three of us started looking for cheap plane tickets. Our flights were scheduled to leave in the wee hours of the approaching Friday. We had all booked separately, so I assumed Cass and Amado were on different flights. On Friday morning, finding a 3am cab to the airport proved more difficult than I had expected. There are few Ubers in Ventura, and even fewer at 3am. Running on minimal sleep, I approached the automated check–in machine, fumbling for my passport. I struggled to remember my name, but a familiar voice from behind quickly reminded me of the painfully obvious:

“Nate!” I turned around; Cass was standing right behind me.

After Cass and I touched down in Vancouver, we grabbed our checked bags and took a seat to wait for Amado, who was an hour or so behind us. Upon his arrival, we got Amado’s luggage and started heading out.

“Wait! I’ve got one more in oversized.”

Amado had brought his log, hoping to sneak in a couple waves himself. We loaded up the rental car, strapping the board to its roof before hopping in. As we were about to pull away, the manager ran out.

“You can’t strap that to the roof!”

Amado tried to reason with him. “Come on, 10ft glider on a Mazda 3? Trust us, we’ve seen worse on PCH too many times to count.” But despite Amado’s charm, the manager insisted it was a no-go.

“No stress!” I interjected, “I’ll stay with the board. Let me just call the friend we’re staying with in Vancouver. He can give me a lift. Where’s the best place for me to get picked up?”

With a little reassurance, the rental agent pointed me to the street, and I waved Cass and Amado off as I hiked up to street level. In a short time, my friends pulled up, we strapped the board on and set off to catch the ferry to Nanaimo.

Before leaving town, we stopped by one of Amado and Cass’s favorite lunch spots. Instantly, Amado recognized the waiter; they had gone to school together. Cass also recognized the occasional passersby. It seemed as if she and Amado had never left Vancouver. We agreed that grabbing food was a worthwhile setback, and made our way to the ferry. As it turned out, we really should have reserved a ticket — we were now about fifty cars back in the standby lane. We missed the first departure, but managed to squeeze in on the next.

On our way up and across the island to Tofino, the full day of travel began to take its toll. Delirium was setting in, and we managed set up camp just in time to knock out only a few miles shy of our destination.

The next morning, we proceeded to the event. Western Red Cedar and Pacific Silver Fir trees line the highway through Tofino. We stopped in town to grab a quick coffee and snack before heading to the event. A small sign marked the road. Cars packed into the dirt lot and surrounding neighborhood as people made their way to the beach. A short hike through more gorgeous trees, and we finally reached our destination.

One minor issue was impossible to ignore: howling onshore winds mixed up the meager waves. Most of us probably would have gone back to town for a second coffee. Amid unfavorable weather, the event still continued in high spirits. The competitors made short work of sloppy surf, stylishly sliding through the day’s first heat. But despite our best efforts to stay positive, we ultimately couldn’t kid ourselves — it was a bit of a letdown.

Unfortunately, day two started off with similar conditions. We were convinced that we could find cleaner waves in a neighboring cove. Cass opted to stay, but Amado and I were of tired of sitting on the windy beach and getting sandblasted, so we hopped on the road again. Briefly back on the highway, we took the next turnoff, arriving at a small neighborhood. A sign posted on the corner advertised a yard sale — always worth checking out.

Trying to locate the promised sale, we slowly began to suspect that we’d wandered onto a reservation. We hoped we weren’t intruding; there was nobody around to ask. Fair game, perhaps. So we made our way to beach, stumbling upon two men hard at work in their yard cutting cedar boards. Their black lab puppy bounded over to greet us. We sheepishly asked the guys if it was ok that we’d parked, and inquired about the best place to scope out the beach. They invited us into their yard and, in exchange for parking and passage through their property, asked if we would keep their excitable little dog, Slash, out of their hair.

Wetsuit, board, cameras, and pup in tow, we walked down the empty beach to a small cove where less-than-modest surf peeled along the sand and eagles circled overhead. It was small, but at least it wasn’t windy. Ankle slappers beat “victory at sea” any day. And though the Duct Tape may have been the catalyst for our trip, this felt like the true destination. Amado suited up as I made my way across a small inlet to an island and set up to shoot. Slash fumbled around by the rocks before romping over to my side and falling in my lap, his black coat cold after crossing the shallow water. Amado bobbed and I sat, a sense of calm overwhelming us both. Sometimes, you need to get skunked before you can truly feel like you’ve scored.