Having spent his fair share of time in the wilderness fighting off bears, felling trees, and threading secret Canadian tubes, Tofino’s Peter Devries is an expert when it comes to leaving the beaten path, scoring empty waves, and getting home alive. Want to look for waves outside of your pedestrian surf zone? Take a few notes from Pete first.
It’s camping, it’s supposed to be rough: Before you set out, let’s get one thing straight. If you’re truly going bushwacking in search of epic surf, accept that the journey will inherently suck at times. “The hardest camping trip we’ve ever done was probably a 10K hike into a really secluded spot with all of our gear,” says Pete. “We were dropped off by a boat and had to hike this trail that we thought was going to be easy and only take us four to six hours. It ended up being really mountainous terrain with big sections of bog and mud. We hiked for eight hours, the last two in the dark with headlamps, until we finally found the coast. We set up camp in the pissing rain not knowing where we were. The next morning we woke up to find out we still had a couple headlands to get around. So we had to break down camp and hike for two more hours until we were at the wave. Jeremy [Koreski] and Raph [Bruhwiler] had packs that were around 100 pounds. Needless to say the crew was hurting before we got to surf. I had blisters all over my feet so I duct-taped them up before surfing. The waves ended up being really fun so it was worth it.”
Pick your crew wisely: We all have friends who are great in small doses, but the last thing you want is to be isolated with one of them in the bush for a week. If you want a flawless trip, surround yourself with a flawless crew. “The crew you’re with is everything when you go camping. Especially when you’re in the middle of nowhere and you’re going to be there for a few days. If you have a crew that is fun to hang out with when the waves suck, then you know you’ll have a good trip regardless of the conditions. All the boys up here enjoy getting away from it all and looking for waves, so the crew is usually on the same page.
Let there be light! (And axes, lighters, and possibly a chainsaw) Because of its latitude, the winter days in Canada are short and the nights long. You’ll spend a lot of time in the dark, so be prepared. “Having a headlamp or flashlight in the winter is crucial. It gets light at 8 a.m. and dark at 4 p.m. up here, so you know you’ll be spending plenty of hours in the dark. You’re also gonna want an axe. Having a fire is also crucial up here for staying warm and cooking. When the wood’s wet, you’ll need a good axe that can help you get to the middle of a piece of cedar where the the wood has a better chance of being dry. A chainsaw is always nice too. It’s always good to bring two lighters and keep them in two separate places. I throw one in a dry bag and keep one on me just in case something bad happens. Being able to start a fire makes things so much more comfortable when it’s cold and wet.”
Waterproof yourself: It’s one thing to be cold out in the wild, it’s another shade of miserable to be wet and cold. According to Pete, the biggest mistake you can make—short of being mauled by a bear—is not having an array of waterproof gear. “Rain gear and a waterproof tent are so important. Guys end up in puddles in the middle of the night all the time because they don’t have the right gear. Leaving food out is something that you should also avoid. The black bears can get hungry and curious.”
Be prepared for something to go wrong: If you’d rather not wind up on I Shouldn’t Be Alive, you’d be wise to take a few notes from Pete and be prepared for the worst-case scenarios. “Have a radio that works, especially if you are out of cell range so you can reach the Coast Guard if you need to. Camping is really important for getting good waves up here and it’s becoming more and more important as we look further away from home for good waves. It’s mostly wilderness up here so you have to be willing to spend a few nights in a tent in order to score. But you gotta be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.”