Wind warnings from Environment Canada were music to the ears of local windsurfers last month.
After hearing that an “intense Pacific frontal system” would bring Southeast winds of up to 90 km/h to the West Coast on Jan 17, Ucluelet locals Jesse Jared Cohen and David Gerbrandt were amped to get on the water.
“I’ve been cringing at work all day,” Gerbrandt told the Westerly News from the water at Ucluelet’s 52 Steps Dock. “It’s really fun. It’s the most addictive thing. Once you do it, you’re hooked. It’s just too much fun. It’s like surfing and motocross combined. That’s the best way I could describe it.”
Gerbrandt, 38, said he started windsurfing around Nitinat Lake while living in Bamfield and continued the sport when he moved to Ucluelet with his family two years ago.
“We love it,” he said of Ucluelet. “It’s a playground.”
Cohen, who has been windsurfing for roughly six years and earned a fourth place finish in Oregon’s 2017 Pistol River Wave Bash amateur division, said he’d first heard of the incoming winds about four days prior and his excitement increased as weather reports remained consistent during the week, serving as an invitation to a thrilling experience.
He said Jan. 17’s readings recorded winds around 45-59 knots, but the sheltered harbour around 52 Steps offered a more rideable 15-20 knots.
“You get pretty stoked. Anything over 15 knots of wind, that’s where we really come alive. The sail power is just bang on,” he said. “With the experience I have, it’s no longer scary. It’s actually fun…The biggest joy about doing this on stormy days is the fact that we’re able to have fun outdoors when it’s so miserable out.”
Windsurfing has not yet caught on in popularity around the West Coast and is more common around Parksville and Victoria, according to Cohen who estimated he hit local waters about 50 times in 2017.
“There’s safer spots to windsurf on the stormy south-east low pressure systems, but on the West Coast there’s only a couple of us that are really chasing it,” he said. “The wind’s just way more gusty and unpredictable on this side.”
He added though that Ucluelet’s harbour provides a sheltered space to learn and anyone looking to get into the sport should expect to spend about a week getting a feel for it.
“The Ucluelet harbour offers really sheltered waters and there’s a lot of light-wind days,” he said. “This is an easy spot for learning.”