Chasing Waves Up North: A Lady Slider's Guide to Tofino, BC

Chasing Waves Up North: A Lady Slider's Guide to Tofino, BC

Written by Emily Rathmanner and Photos by Arisa Yoon

A cold water surf trip isn’t easy, especially when you’re coming from warmer waters. During summer we’d normally head south of the border or stay local to soak up all the juicy gifts of the season. But this time we decided to do something different, head north with our 5/4s and duffle-bags filled with booties, hoodies and beanies.

It makes it easy that fellow lady slider and adventure seeker, Syd, keeps her van in the Pacific Northwest - the van always makes it easier. Meet our home base for the week - Lizzo, a 2020 Sprinter Van, Syd and her stepdad converted and has served us many journeys prior to this one and most likely traveled more miles than most Americans. We all met in Seattle, where Lizzo is temporarily based, with our passports and eager attitudes in tow.


A person changes with a Nomadix Changing Poncho while outside of a camper van.

We hopped in and headed north en route to Tofino. We’ve done this journey before, but now it's summer, a tad warmer, clearer skies and better waves. Getting from Seattle to Tofino takes about 8 hours. First, drive to Port Angeles, take an early morning ferry and then a big haul drive north through mountains, rivers, lakes, road stops and ice cold rope swings. You lose sense of time (and service) for a few hours which on this kind of trip is always a good thing - making time for thoughtful conversation, curiosity, laughs and being fully present.


The author and their friend unloading a surfboard.


Vancouver Island is known for logging and fern lined forests. The air smells cleaner here: fresh like ideas will come cleaner and a reminder of a city left behind. When we finally arrived it was past 8PM and still bright. The sun goes down after 10PM, we surely are in the northern country. A full moon and eagle welcomed us.


The Tofino Coast with lumber on the beach.


That week spent in Tofino was full of what every camping trip should be: group meals, sleeping outdoors, air dried towels on the clothes line and no shoes. Our mornings were spent around a wooden table with coffee, planning out the surf for the day and telling old stories of our travels, some mornings in silence staring at the fire. Once caffeinated, we teamed up to load the van, boards on rack, ready to take off.


The author and their friends hang out in front of their campsite while bundled in Nomadix Original Towels.


On a cold water surf trip the best news of the day is if you have a dry wetsuit for your next surf. With our surf ponchos on, we not-so-quickly changed (5/4s make it tough, even with our Changing Ponchos), strapped on our booties, pulled up our gloves, locked up Lizzo and did what we all traveled to do - surf.


The author and their friend getting ready to surf the Tofino coast.


Our go-to itinerary for a long weekend in Tofino:

On your way to Tofino, pull off on this beautiful rest area and swim in the refreshing Taylor River.

Catch a beer at Tofino Brewing Company and grab a bite from Toki Doki food truck.

Watch the seaplanes take off down at the harbor in downtown Tofino.

Go for a hike on the Tonquin Trail. 

Snag some BBQ and listen to live music at Lil Ronnies BBQ.

Surf Cox Bay.

Make a beach bonfire for sunset.

Head downtown to visit cute and local boutiques, Merge being one of our favs.

- -

Learn more about Arisa Yoon and follow her journey as a professional photographer:

IG: arisayoon