With the dying days of summer, and the onset of the monsoon season, I took the opportunity to join a few friends for the Labour Day long weekend on Haida Gwaii — to surf and camp.
I’m spoiled. I was only on Haida Gwaii in June, and some people from Prince Rupert have never visited the island that takes about seven hours by ferry to reach. When I was there with my parents earlier in the summer I explored Agate Beach and I craved more time in that calm space.
Second chances sometimes reappear quicker than expected. On the Friday, we packed my friend’s truck with all our gear and food then took the day ferry to Skidegate. We picked up our rental surfboards at the North Beach Surf Shop in Masset, then continued to Agate Beach to set up camp.
Living outside for the next three days was bliss. There was no rain, not even the hint of a sun shower. In the early mornings, I combed the beach. In the afternoons I climbed Tow Hill and watched the Mennonites watch the water shoot out of the blow hole. The evenings were reserved for tending to the campfire, where we kept warm and shared stories.
Our camp site neighbour was from the Haida Nation. He pulled up beside us in an old school bus he purchased for $500. He brought his two adorable kids and his playful half-wolf dog, Gunner. The kids and pup would join us on walks, swims and tossing the football around, in return, the father made us a stellar meal with Coho salmon and Mennonite grown vegetables from Port Clements.
His bus was retrofitted to sleep his family and to keep them warm in the winter months. Old school buses seem to be a theme on the island. When we picked up another friend in Masset, who had spent the past few days observing on a crab boat, we stopped off at the Moon Over Naikoon Bakery. The bakery was inside a bus, and it had the best cinnamon buns I’ve had in years.
When Chelsey joined the crew she took me out surfing. I did a three-day surf camp when I was in Byron Bay, Australia more than 10 years ago so I had to learn all over again. We played out in the baby waves on the Agate Beach side, then after some sustenance and a hike, we wandered over to the North Beach to play over there.
At one point, I tried to fully absorb my surroundings: Tow Hill to the left, the faint outline of Alaska in front of us where we scanned for potential waves to ride, and then the stretch of North Beach waiting for our return.
Surfing was incredible. Catching a mini wave and standing up on the board was exhilarating. It was like discovering the right connection with nature to let it give you a lift. By the end of the afternoon session I was taxed. I could barely lift my board. The next day, I discovered new muscles aching and I felt satisfied with my effort.
In about 10 days Will and Kate and their kids will be doing the Royal Tour of B.C. and they are stopping off in Haida Gwaii. This summer, Amazing Race Canada also filmed an episode on the island. Some people may want to keep this remote part of the country a best-kept-secret but it’s getting a much deserved moment in the spotlight this year.
I know for one I have found a new happy place. In my travels I have collected a handful of happy places that I hold close to my heart when I need to reflect on a special moment to find gratitude. Haida Gwaii’s Agate Beach, with Tow Hill towering in the background, the waves crashing over rocky shores, and the dim light coming from the crab boats in the distance as the sun rises over the fringes of the forest or sets over the sea — is pure bliss.
Knowing that my happy place is so close to me, while I live here in Prince Rupert, may be another reason I may choose to live here just a little longer than anticipated.