Where are the best surf spots to chase the waves in Canada - Part 2

Locals and professional surfers alike have known for decades that Canada offers some of the world's best surf.

woman swimming with a surf board

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.

What are the best uncrowded surf spots?

8. Sombrio Beach, Vancouver Island

A closely-guarded local secret, Sombrio Beach is located within Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, making this one of Vancouver Island's most remote surf spots. There is a small parking lot (get there early!) leading to a short downhill hike, passing elevated camping platforms and waterfalls before arriving at the rocky beach. The swells are less protected than in Tofino, so the conditions can be variable, and there is an impressive rock feature right in the middle of the surf path. But when conditions (tide, waves, and wind) line up, you have the chance to surf world-class swells over expansive kelp beds, facing an unbroken temperate rainforest. The uncrowded beach offers plenty of space for an impromptu BBQ at one of the many firepits available. You may even meet some seals at the camping spot next to you. All of this makes Sombrio Beach an unforgettable bucket-list surf spot for the more experienced surfer.

 - Difficulty: Intermediate to Expert Surfers
- Driving time: 4 hr 45 min from Vancouver (including a ferry); 1 hr 40 min from Victoria (on Vancouver Island)

woman walking on a beach to reach the water with her surf board

9. North Beach, Naikoon Provincial Park, Haida Gwaii

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).

Where is the best place for surfing in the summer

woman with here surf board under the arm walking on a beach

10. Kananaskis River, Alberta

Of course, the beaches of Tofino, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick are great summer destinations, especially if you have the time and gear to enjoy a camping spot and a post-surf firepit. But not only is Kananaskis River in Alberta a great bucket-list destination ("There's surf in Alberta?" Yes, world-class surf!), it also offers also a great vibe for locals and visitors alike and is an easy and inexpensive way to escape the inland heat.

Kananaskis River offers a variety of surf spots for a variety of skill levels. 10th St. (by the Louise Bridge) has a deep eddy and water channel as well as a consistent break, making it a well-known local surf destination for beginners to test their skills. It also has a laid-back, friendly vibe and is known for its warm welcome.

For a mixed group of beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers, get a ride out to Canoe Meadows Campground in Bow Valley Provincial Park, a 4,000-acre ecological reserve. There you'll find "The Green Tongue," a reliably gentle wave to practice your skills. Once you're feeling more confident, head 10 minutes upstream to the "Santa Clause," a faster, steeper wave, perfect for upping the ante.

Finally, "the Mountain Wave" on the river in Bow Valley is a must-visit destination for advanced and expert surfers. Home to the River Surf Championship in 2019, the Mountain Wave is a fast-flowing, shallow river break specifically designed for river surfers by the Alberta River Surfing Association. When surfing the Mountain Wave, even expert surfers are suggested to go with a guide, as cell phone reception is variable and the remote location means medical services may take some time to arrive. The riverbank was recently updated to improve surf access as well as spectator access along the rock beach, so if you're in the area, why not head upstream to watch the local skills on display!

 - Difficulty: Beginner to Advanced Surfers
- Driving time: 10th St. is in downtown Calgary; Canoe Meadows is 1 hr 20 min driving from Calgary

Where do surfers surf?

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!

How do I find the best surf spot for me?

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.

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