Cast of Characters (in alphabetical order):
Alicia: friend of mine through school and through science outreach work.
Beth: um, this is me. But you knew that!
Danielle: my awesome roommate and former hockey team captain!
Jasmine & Jesse: Danielle's friends. It was Jesse's birthday too, so they have a bunch of friends coming on this adventure too.
Kalev: friend of mine through school, sort of. We worked together on a project once, ended up in San Fran together and the rest is history.
Kim: friend of mine through my and Danielle's hockey team.
Kyle: Kalev's boyfriend. He's a physicist.
Sheila: friend of mine through Danielle. We all play ultimate together.
Bunch'o'people, most of whose names I did not catch: Jasmine & Jesse's friends... I didn't catch most of their names, other than Brice who drove us around.
Vancouver --> Horseshoe Bay ferry terminal in West Van --> Departure Bay ferry terminal in Nanaimo --> Tofino!!!
Saturday, January 13, 2007. At 6:25 am on a normal day, you are far more likely to find Beth just going to bed than you are to find her up and ready to go for the day. But there she is, showered, fed, full of coffee and on her way up the icy hill to catch the 6:35 am bus that will take her downtown to catch another bus to the ferry. And she only had to set three alarms and be slightly panicked that she wouldn't wake up in time in order to achieve this. Danielle is already over on the island and Sheila is taking another bus downtown, but everyone else gets on Beth's bus and make it downtown without incident. Alicia informs Beth, to her delight, that her birthday present is that they will be taking a pole dancing lesson! Sweet! Meeting up with Sheila downtown, they all hop on the bus to the ferry terminal, taking over the back of the bus and being rather rowdy for such an early hour. Their rowdiness continues into the ferry waiting area and the annoyance of the other early morning travellers (and their relief that we aren't getting on the same ferry as them) is palpable. Once on the ferry, someone inadvertently flips Sheila's off switch. The group soon (OK, two hours later) arrives and Beth declares that getting them to Departure Bay was the end of her responsibility insofar as knowing where they are going is concerned. She also declares that Departure Bay is inappropriately named, seeing as they have just arrived. Beth likes to declare things.
Danielle, Jasmine, Jesse and crew arrive to whisk the group to Tofino. That's "Tofino," not "casino" as Beth's, Kim's and Kyle's mothers all thought they were saying when they said "I'm going to Tofino this weekend!". "Whisking" involves a 3-hour drive, a Tim Horton's lunch break and much pondering on the snowiness of the surroundings, given that the group is on a surfing trip. As they near Tofino, Kalev declares that we should not pick up the hitchhiker, because he is "not nearly hot enough." The group scopes out the beach, checks into the cabin (Beth's crew) and suite (J&J's crew) and then heads to the surf rental shop. They discover that they are too late in the day to do a 4-hour rental and have to do a 24-hour rental instead. Seeing as it is only $5 more and it means they get to surf on Sunday morning in addition to Saturday afternoon, everyone is happy with that. Wetsuits are struggled into, and, at the end of it, they all look like Navy Seals. Kalev & Kyle have elected to stay at the cabin and Alicia and Kim have elected to act as official photographers and surf support team. Surf support team duties include picking up the surfers's food & booze & extra towels (because the surfers use up all the towels!) while they shower and struggle out of their wetsuits. Oh ya, and on Sunday morning it involved combing Beth's hair for her. Seriously, I'm not making that up.
Off to Chesterman Beach they go, for skimboarding, boogie boarding and surfing in the most spectacular sunset they've ever seen. Everyone marvels at the beauty surrounding them, thrills at the fun of diving through waves to get our far enough to then try to catch a big one and, with any luck, actually make it to some sort of standing-like position for falling off. Despite the cold weather, the wetsuits are so good that the surfers are warmer in the water than the surf support team is on the beach. Beth is thrilled that she actually managed to get up to her knees and catch a bit of wave... not too bad for a first time surfer! Beth decides that this is officially the best birthday EVER!
Once the sun is set, the crew returns to the cabin and the surfers shower and get out of the wetsuits while the surf support team performs their aforementioned food & booze retrieval duties. Cabin activities include, but are not limited to, watching the Canucks kick some Leafs butt (w00t!); calling Beth's dad to taunt over said Canucks victory; eating a communal dinner of chips, more chips, other snacks, various meal-like items, cookies and so forth; a variety of games; the eating of the birthday cupcakes. In a strange twist, Beth declines to consume alcohol, deciding that she consumed sufficient quantities on her actual birthday.
Sunday, January 14 , 2007. Sunday morning involves getting into the still-wet wetsuits for more surfing. All those things that were said about "wow, it's not even cold surfing in the winter!" are taken back. As is Beth's early morning comment of "how could you forget to duck & cover when you fall off your board?" Beth proceeds to blame her "head injury" (sometimes cited as a "brain injury") every time she says or does something stupid for the rest of the trip. Fortunately, Beth is relatively unharmed, making her mother's predictions that she get hurt while surfing and end up in a watery grave unfulfilled. However, ever the trooper, Beth continues to surf and actually does manage to get up to a standing-like pose on the board for at least a half a second before falling off. As a result, she contemplates a career as a pro surfer. After surfing to the point just shy of hypothermia, they group piles back into the vans to race back to the cabin to try to shower and pack before check-out time.
Beth learns that she shouldn't offer to take the last shower in a cabin of 7 people, as this results in the water going cold before she's even out of her wetsuit. This, combined with the fact that she got the crappy surfing gloves that morning and her hands were frozen to the point of nonfunctionality and that she didn't get to dry her hair as the group was already running late, resulted in her being freezing cold for the remainder of the trip.
The drive back to the now appropriately named Departure Bay ferry terminal at Nanaimo was fairly uneventful, mostly because Beth slept so as to escape sensation that she was freezing to death. She did wake up long enough to take a picture of the cool clouds by the mountain through the car window. Hitting *five* red lights in the home stretch to the ferry terminal leads the group to be 3 minutes too late to buy ferry tickets. Despite the fact that they could have easily run up the ramp to the ferry before it left, the ticket seller refuses and they are force to wait *two hours* until the next ferry. But such is the temperament of our intrepid group that they enjoyed their unexpected two-hour delay by meandering through a grocery store, consuming Timmy Ho or Quizno sandwiches, pretending to be sad about their delay, and taking a nice brisk walk back to the ferry after their food gathering adventures.
And after a two-hour ferry ride (during which they try, but never succeed, at throwing a chocolate covered raisin into Danielle's mouth), a very, very, very full bus ride and another bus ride, they were home again!!
And a good time was had by all. And not just a good time. An wickedly, amazingly, fantastically awesome time in fact. I wanted to do something exciting, something memorable, surrounded by great friends to embrace my 30th birthday and to start to make 2007 the fantastic year that I know it will be. That I will make it be, if it kills me! Life is, after all, what you make it.
So mark your calendars (and start saving your pennies) for January 11th, 2007 - my 40th birthday. The plan (subject to change over the next decade) is to go surfing in Australia or Hawaii. I'll keep you posted as plans develop ;-)
Note: The complete set of photos (all 200+ of them!) from the weekend, in their out-of-order splendor, can be seen on my Flickr.