Skookumchuck Narrows and the Sunshine Coast

I love snowy winters, but unfortunately, our little town doesn’t seem to get much snow… just lots of cold wind! I sit here now, listening to the howl of the wind, while the temperature has dropped to the mid teens and I can’t stop dreaming of longer and warmer days ahead. One of our summer destinations for 2016 is Skookumchuck Narrows in British Columbia.

Skookumchuck is located about three hours northwest of Vancouver, on the Sunshine Coast, and has hiking and paddling for all levels. What makes Skookumchuck Narrows so special? The narrows is the entrance to the Sechelt Inlet and is home to one of the most impressive standing tidal surf waves in the world. Yes, that is my personal opinion, and no I have not seen every single one. Kayakers have been going there for years to surf and within the past decade, it has become more popular among surfers and SUP. One of the coolest aspects about this wave is that you always know when it is going to run, just check out the tide charts. You will see kayakers on the wave up to 14.5 knots and surfers up to 16 knots. By 15, the wave has glassed out, so you need speed to catch it. You will also need a expert level of knowledge of whitewater and survival skills, because below the wave is huge whitewater with massive boils that can pull a person down deep and long. There is no playing around in the water at that level, it is all survival and it could require a mile long paddle to get back to shore. The good news is, as the wave is building it is very beginner friendly, and the boils are manageable, so don’t avoid coming, just get there early and enjoy it before it gets too big!

This past summer was my second time to Skook. We parked our RV at the Backeddy Resort, in Egmont. Egmont is a tiny little village with few amenities. The Backeddy has a bar and restaurant, and there is a small market (Bathgate) just up the road for basic supplies and groceries, but I would recommend coming prepared with anything you might need. The closest grocery store is a thirty minute drive, and shuttling back and forth for supplies is one of the last things I want to do when I am at Skook. The Backeddy also has wifi in the bar, so it’s a good place to kill the time with some work emails while waiting for the wave.

When it is time to head down to the wave, there are a number of different options as to how you can get there. Number one, obviously, paddle! It’s about a two mile paddle. Option two, hike through the massive ferns and giant trees of the rainforest, along the Skookumchuck Narrows Trail. This trail starts on a dirt road, and passes private property before turning to a single track (it’s wide enough for my double stroller, most of the way). Make sure not to miss out on the Skookumchuck Bakery and their amazing cinnamon rolls, among the rest of the delicious pastries and locally made art and jewelry. Finally, if you are in search of an easy ride, schedule a water taxi to give you a lift. There are racks at the wave for storing your board. Many people leave their gear there on the first day and then take it all with them at the end of their trip. If you are nervous about thieves, bring a lock.

Most people who make the trip to paddle Skook are there for the wave, but there are more mellow, kid friendly options too. I would recommend exploring the channel and islands around Egmont. There are two island, within site of the Backeddy that are full of sunbathing seals in the morning. They are weary of humans, so you can’t get too close without them sliding in the water and then staring at you from a safe distance. There are also gigantic starfish, and if there is no red tide, lots of oysters to be collected for dinner. There are some nice freshwater lakes for swimming and paddling. Waugh Lake is just off the road before you arrive in Egmont. It is a perfectly calm and protected area for the girls to paddle their Imagine Ignite kid’s board. Brown Lake, off the Skookumchuck Narrows Trail is a small clear lake with very cool water, perfect for a hot summer day. Those opting for a day of hiking or biking can head over to the Suncoaster Trail for twenty two miles of single track, with various exit points along the way. Of course, you could just hang out and camp, enjoy the view, and if they are in season, gorge on the massive blackberries. This year, I am set on taking a ferry over to the Princess Louisa Inlet to explore and check out some of the sixty waterfalls in the area! Night comes pretty late when you are this far north in the summer. When the sun does finally set, there is more to see on the water as the phosphorescence make their appearance.  When all is said and done, and if you still happen to have some energy to burn, head back to the Backeddy Bar for some drinks and waterfront views.

Yes, it is only February, but summer is just around the corner in my own snow deprived, wind burnt mind. I am looking forward to heading back to BC and exploring some new parts of the Sunshine coast that I hope to be able to share soon. Stay warm!