Dec 13, 2006

TOFINO, British Columbia: Around 3 a.m., I awake as a second storm rips onshore. Wind banshees through cracks, the surf snarls like a cougar. Then I understand how mariners drown mere feet from safe harbor, their cries submerged in a wall of sound. And I know this, too: Nobody, but nobody, is fool enough to introduce a novice surfer to 45-foot swells.

The next morning, Karen and I creep into a dishwater world. Gales here blanch all color from the sea, which spits foam and fog to shroud the earth. As David Pitt-Brooke observed in his 2005 wilderness almanac, Chasing Clayoquot: "There is no sky, no cloud, no ceiling. There is only pale nothingness, above the darker nothingness of land."

"You're not going in that water," my colleague announces.

"They won't let me," I sulk. "Anyway, I doubt anyone's going in that water."

Again, we had underestimated Tofino.

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