Yes, British Columbia, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia feature barrels and swells right at the base of misty rainforests or along kilometers of uncrowded sandy beaches; these breaks are worth planning your next destination surf trip. But don't stop there! There are epic surf spots in nearly every Canadian province: in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and to the Great Lakes, in Ontario.
The sheer difficulty in getting to Haida Gwaii from elsewhere in Canada may seem intimidating, but the courageous traveller is rewarded by spectacular scenery, quiet sessions and pure-white sand beaches. The best time to visit is October to March (The Expression Session Surf Festival is usually held in November), meaning this is definitely cold-water surfing; visitors should make sure to bring or rent a thick wetsuit (ideally 4 -7 mm) with a hood, gloves, and boots, and to take their time acclimatizing before a lengthy session.
- Difficulty: Beginner to Expert Surfers
- Driving time: Haida Gwaii is accessible only by plane or ferry. It's a 2-hour flight from Vancouver or an 8-hour ferry from Prince Rupert (which is a 23-hr drive/ferry from Vancouver).
The vast majority of Canada's famous surf spots – Tofino, Sombrio Beach, Lawrencetown Beach, Cow Bay, Kananaskis River – became what they are today simply because a small group of surfers found a good break. They kept surfing it, often despite the cold waters, the unknown riptides or obstacles, or the lack of resources like hot showers or local shops. They soon told their friends (who told their friends...), and just like that, surf festivals and championships start popping up and the break gets busy.
This list provides some of Canada's best surf spots, from the downtown eddies to the remote locals' favourites. But if you want to find the next Cox Bay before the crowds, simply chat with the locals. Be a friendly face at the beach, help to keep the beach clean, practice good surf etiquette, and become a part of the scene. Surfers are famously protective of their favourite surf spots, but surfing is also a terrific community of like-minded individuals keen to find clean breaks and big barrels. So hop in the water, hang around, share your firepit, and soon you'll have your own local break to keep secret!
As you can tell, Canada features many surf beaches offering a variety of attractions and features. Depending on if you want to find some nearby waves, go for a weekend adventure, or fly/ferry/boat to a bucket-list destination, you can quickly find a surf spot appropriate for your skill level by doing a little bit of research in advance.
Start with this list and pick a break, a province, or a locale. Maybe you're looking for an uncrowded surf spot? Or maybe you want the buzz of people and a city to explore after your session? Canada's surfing destinations offer something for everyone.
Once you have an idea of where you want to go for your next surf adventure, you can also contact the many surf shops and surf schools available in these areas; Long Beach in Tofino and Lawrencetown Beach in Nova Scotia have plenty of locally-owned shops that are invested in the community. They offer lessons and locals' advice to go with rental boards, wetsuits, and a new pair of boardshorts.