Kayak Surfing Standing Waves at Skookumchuck Narrows Rapids BC
WHITE WATER KAYAK SURFING
When we set out to hike to Skookumchuck Narrows to see the big tidal surge, we were not expecting to see a kayaker thrown out of his kayak and swept out into the rushing tide. We started out down the green trail to the rapids planning to get to the narrows at high tide.The local Sunshine Coast newspapers have tide tables telling when to go to Skookumchuck. At the start of the forest trail close to the parking lot was a bakery in the trees. It had delicious smelling muffins, buns,cookies,coffee. What to choose? We provisioned ourselves with giant cinnamon buns and walked along munching.
When we arrived at the narrows there were about a dozen kayakers pulled up. They had bright large sea kayaks. Some kayaks were pulled up out of the water while the kayakers rested on the rocks. All wore wetsuits, life jackets and helmets. Some were sitting in their kayaks were floating in calmer protected water by the shore. The tide was very high with white water, whirlpools, and large standing waves.We thought they were waiting for calmer water. We had no idea that they had come here to attempt surfing on the standing wave.
Skookumchuck is a West Coast Native word meaning rapid turbulent torrent of water. It is a place where the inlet narrows dramatically and standing on the rock at the shore you can watch incredible tidal surges daily. On a three meter tide, 200 billion gallons of water pours through the narrows.Sometimes the tidal surge creates a wave over two meters(six feet) high while the water rushes over this wave at great speeds.
The water rushes up the wave which is formed by resistance to the fast flowing water.The resistance can be a large mass of deeper water, uneven ocean bottom , or something else. It is a very interesting natural phenomenon. Only very experienced boaters or kayakers attempt to pass through Skookumchuck narrows at high tide. Until that day in June I did not know it was possible to surf the waves.
Then some kyakers started to paddle out into the rough water. Two grey haired men who looked very strong and experienced approached the standing wave from behind. They paddled through the rough water until they crested the top of the wave and then they started down the other side. Then they were balancing in tandem both poised halfway down the standing wave. The bows of their kayaks faced into the rushing current and some force of nature??? Gravity??? kept them sliding down so the two forces balanced. They were able to move sideways through the wave so smoothly it looked effortless. Then they slid to the side of the wave and back into the rough water. Paddling the currents and crashing through the waves they soon returned to the quiet waters of the shore. We could not believe what we had seen. People on shore were cheering.One kayaker had a video camera on a long metal pole. He was videoing the acrobatics from the viewpoint of the rushing water level.
Some of the younger kayakers tried to crest the standing wave and one managed to ride it for a few seconds. The others were thrown back, off balanced and had trouble staying upright. Two or three were caught in the rushing current and pulled about two kilometers (about one mile) down the inlet until they were able to free themselves of the current. Then a young man and woman paddled out and tried to catch the wave. They were tossed back violently and the young man was thrown out of his kayak. Clinging to it he tried to climb back in. This is a very difficult task and he flipped back into the water many times. I was afraid he would be exhausted. He was in calm water but the whirlpool action was pulling him out. I wondered why none of the other kayakers tried to help him. Maybe they were afraid of being tipped into the water with him.
The current grabbed the young man and his kayak and rushed them far far out past all the kayakers. It was scary to watch, however he was well protected by his wetsuit, helmet and life jacket. He kept a tight hold of his kayak and it seemed that he ended up in the quieter waters way down the coast near the other two kayakers who had been swept away. Perhaps this is a regular occurance for beginners trying to surf a standing wave at Skoocumchuck Narrows.
The You Tube Videos of Standing Wave Surfing
On our way back to our car we met a man from Texas. he was a kayaker who had seen kayak surfing on You Tube and wanted to see it himself at Skookumchuck Narrows. He was not disappointed. I love these You Tube Videos. They are better than the ones we took which we could not download properly.
Standing wave kayak surfing by danweston You Tube
Skookumchuck Team Pyranha
Epic Skoocumchuck-whitewater kyak surfs
How to get to Skookumchuck Narrows
To get to the narrows from Vancouver B.C. first drive the scenic highway to Horshoe Bay Ferry terminal half an hour from downtown in West Vancouver. Then take the fourty minute B.C. Langdale ferry to Langdale on the sunshine coast. Then drive north through Gibsons on Highway 101. Pass Seschelt, Madera Park and approach Egmont. This takes about one and a half to two hours. The trip is very scenic. Turn right on Egmont road and drive 6 km (3 miles) to the parking lot. There is a small local museum across the road and a bakery about one block down the path/road. You can get snacks and directions at both places.
Walk the trail about 4 kilometers (two miles) past Brown Lake and the first rapids viewing turn off, past the out houses to the second viewing point where the photos were taken.
Hope you get there on a good day.