Surfing Vancouver Island  

Sand-hill Surfing by Neil Borecky  


Sand-hill Surfing

by Neil Borecky sand hill surfing photo from Saskatchewan, Canada

I tried out surfing for the first time down in Cape Hatteras. I remember getting up on an 8-foot slug, time slowing down to a crawl, and me staring at the big black and white stripped lighthouse thinking..."I'm never going to stop doing this.."

Over the next few years, I zig-zagged my way across the continent and bought my first board in Tofino off of a very kind girl named "Mattie". She was generous enough to lend me a wetsuit for the week and a half I spent in retreat from a long season of tree-planting. I spent 8 hours a day in the water during that time. Surfing between time spent eating and sleeping at my little camp above a bay which is now getting built over. (I removed all of my refuse, plus I hauled out 4 other bags full of garbage that other selfish people left behind.)

I still have this short-board and I still can't use it very well. I'm told it used to belong to Raph Bruhwiler when he was still under Pearson, explaining why I can't ride it too well ;). I've since acquired a Quest longboard, however I still will never forget the longest ride I ever had on my Pearson Arrow.

On one of my cross-continental trips, I found myself meandering through the wilds of Saskatchewan. My beau insisted that we visit the Great Sandhills, and not one to pass up an adventure or disappoint her, I willingly agreed.

For the next day and a half we flew down dusty back roads and through semi-abandoned farming towns. A few die-hard prairie locals were sitting on a ramshackle porch on one of the few houses which weren't boarded up in this one small farming community. I'll never forget the look on the weathered face of this one toothless old man as we passed by in our car. He saw the board on the roof, pointed at it, and slapped his knee in laughter while his cronies just shook their heads. Finally we blundered our way onto this little back road which was decorated by a fence-full of used cow-boy boots. The dirt on the road turned into a fine beach-like sand, and hummocks actually began to resemble giant sand dunes. Finally we came across what I knew was the "Great Sand Hills of Saskatchewan". The dunes stood about 100 feet high, and resembled giant waves. (Albeit these waves only move about 6 feet a year.)

It was getting near sun-down and I just had a great idea. We both piled out of the car, and I unstrapped the board from the roof. Since it was in rough shape and I needed a new board anyway, I figured that a little ride would do it no harm... just like fine sand-paper right???? (I can almost hear the moans of pain from everyone out there.... but hey, you always have to try new things.)

sand hill surfing photo from Saskatchewan, Canada Julie and I climbed to the top of the first steep dune ( no small task since one step up appeared to slide us two steps back.) Once on top, we were treated to a scene directly out of a National Geographic special. As far as the eye could see, it resembled the Sahara desert. Rippled sand drifting over mighty dunes to the horizon. The sun was setting, giving the sand a pinkish hue. I grabbed my board stepped on at the height of the dune and pointed down. There must have been some sort of static electricity between fine dry sand and the resin finish on the surfboard, because there was virtually no friction against the dune. I sped down the face of the dune at a speed which caught me entirely off guard. It surprised me that I could turn during this decent, and that the fins actually worked to steer rather than to drag uselessly in the sand. The ride lasted maybe 20 seconds, but the whole way I was doing sandy carves and marveling at this new-found thrill. When I got to the bottom, I noticed some small kids with their mother and they seemed quite anxious to give this new sport a try, so for the next hour while the sun went down, we hooted and hollered our way down the dunes. Sometimes wiping out in a sand-explosion, sometimes not.

Finally the sun set, whereupon Julie and I waved good-bye, packed up the board and drove on through the night in a wicked prairie thunderstorm. It was too dark so the pictures of dune surfing never came out, but that moment sticks in my memory as the longest ride I ever got with that board. It still hangs in my house, believe it or not, unscathed at least by that encounter.

sand hill surfing photo from Saskatchewan, Canada

Cheers,

Neil

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