TRIP REPORT: NOOTKA ISLAND
I’ve always valued experiences more than possessions. I’ve felt incredibly fortunate that chasing these experiences has led me to some awesome places with some amazing people!
One of these experiences recently landed me and some of the VSSL crew on Nootka Island, on a remote patch of the West Coast of Vancouver Island.
I like doing lots of different things. I always have. I’ve wished I could live multiple lives so that I could completely engross myself in a multitude of activities. One of these lives would be in the pursuit of surf. Unfortunately, what happens when you like doing a lot of activities (but don’t have the time, or the multiple lives to pursue them), is you end up not being that great at many of these pursuits. But for me, it’s been more about the personal growth that comes from doing things that are both humbling and challenging. Surfing does both of those for me. Places and adventures that make me feel small are important to me. I like being reminded how amazing this planet that we live on is. I believe we can only truly appreciate that through experiences. I love places that force me to take those moments to soak it all in. And I love sharing those places with people who share that appreciation!
Nootka is all of this.
There might only be one person on the planet who can access the incredible remote surf that brought us to Nootka Island. Or rather, one person we’d trust with our lives, who knows how to navigate the wild pacific coastal waters and knows the surf breaks to make this expedition possible - VSSL Voyager Raph Bruhwiler.
This was our second trip surfing and fishing in Raph’s backyard. I’ve surfed enough to know the difference between good waves and bad waves. But I’m also a rookie when it comes to surfing, and most places I’ve surfed are milder and more crowded. It is just an unreal experience to be surfing good solid waves on remote breaks with only your crew!
For over 20 years, Raph was Canada’s best surfer and surfed professionally until he was 40. To put his career into context, his kids call Kelly Slater “Uncle Kelly”. Since then, he’s been a Canadian Coast Guard, patrolling the same waters he learned to surf. Over the last few years, as Raph puts it, “I got tired of pulling dead bodies from the ocean” so, he started running epic surf trips through his company www.Groundswelladventures.com, showing others this amazing place. And while you usually want to keep “remote breaks” a secret, it doesn’t really matter in the case of Nootka. There’s no real worry of these breaks getting crowded. They’re too hard to access, and fortunately not enough surfers are willing to suffer through hours of travel, thick wetsuits, and shitty conditions for waves.
But our crew is.
And speaking of crew. When I started VSSL, it was (and still is) really a passion project. I’ve been making these since I was a kid. I’m also an entrepreneur and I know the pitfalls of that mindset, especially when it comes to your own product. I always knew that when the time was right, and I found the right person, they’d steer the ship. About three years ago, I hired Dave Marsala to grab the wheel. I make things, Dave runs the company. Not only does he do an amazing job at the helm of VSSL, but he is also one of the crew that appreciates the quest for waves and other adventures. In fact, him and his awesome wife Caitlin made that a life’s pursuit and moved to Mexico a few years ago. They both joined me on this trip, and they both rip! We truly embrace the “remote workforce” experience. And I sincerely appreciate having a company that allows me to explore my passions with people whose time I thoroughly enjoy and who are stoked to join me on adventures!
And another shout out from me, for another member of this Nootka surf crew. While we do final assembly of most of our products in Abbotsford. We get a lot of parts and pieces manufactured overseas. A good friend of mine Curtis Braber has been manufacturing equipment for years with his company BE Equipment, and between him and his dad, they’ve been instrumental in helping VSSL produce quality equipment that stands up to the rigors of the outdoors. Curtis is that friend who is always up for adventure. He’s a quality guy that you have no problem bringing with you to meet up with anyone. It’s a partnership that has helped VSSL immensely and I’ve really come to appreciate that relationship. Having a manufacturing partner that not only helps you make quality gear but is also willing to explore remote surf breaks is truly amazing!
As a testament to how much we love these trips with Raph to Nootka, Dave has booked next May and VSSL is making it an annual Surf trip, and Curtis has already booked this October!
I hope I get invited to both.