The West Coast lost another small business this month.
Wya Point Surf Shop owner Tyson Touchie spent the weekend blowing out the remaining crumbs of his inventory – glass singlefins, changing towels, surf tees, board wax, nature books – and will pass the keys to his surf shop back over to Ucluelet First Nation (UFN) government.
“I’m deflated. The wind’s out of my sail,” said Touchie.
The Indigenous small business owner said he thinks the new Ups-cheek ta-shee multi-use pathway through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve might have had something to do with the fate of Wya Point Surf.
“[The path] is gonna be an awesome ride and hike, but for me it’s a double-edged sword. I think the Nation is seeing more value and more money to be had and I guess they want their take,” Touchie said.
“We made it through our 2020 season pretty well because we had so much local traffic and repeat customers, but they want to increase my lease by five times what it was,” he continued, adding that he was told the reason for the dramatic increase is that they are going by “market rates”.
The Nation declined to comment due to privacy concerns.
“I just want everybody to know that we are setting a really dangerous precedent right now. It’s not really fair for any [Ucluelet First Nation] entrepreneur who is just starting out,” Touchie told the Westerly in a Dec. 15 phone interview.
Wya Point Surf Shop would have celebrated its 10th anniversary this summer. Located next to the Tofino-Ucluelet Junction, Touchie’s surf shop was one of the few Indigenous owned and operated spaces where visitors to the region could interact with someone from UFN, notes Touchie.
“I value what we set out to do. To provide opportunity to our people and to provide good work, not just minimum wage. It’s just disheartening. To see all that work go in and to be underappreciated,” Touchie said.
He went on to tell the Westerly that he had just finished paying off his debt of $50,000, and that taking out another loan and going into debt again would have just been too risky.
“I honestly love the place. I love being in that place. If you take the silver lining, if I had a choice, I’d be down at the beach every day. I was telling my kids, ‘you know when you see your dad out there and he’s waiting for a wave?’ Well, that’s what I’m doing right now, I’m just waiting for the next wave,” he said.
Welcome to Kwis-ii-tis: Local Ucluelet First Nation surf instructors Byron, left, Tyson and Tyson jr at the Wya Point Surf Shop in July 2020. (Facebook photo)