Sure, Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, might not be known for its balmy waters, but it boasts a surf scene that can easily hold its own.
While Tofino, located on the west coast of the Island, is a household name in the surfing world, the Island has a few additional hidden treasures speckled along the coastline, including a tiny settlement called Jordan River.
Located roughly an hour and a half west of the province’s capital, Victoria, Jordan River might be small, but its surf scene is not to be ignored.
Sited at the junction of the river to the Pacific Ocean, waves can range from a modest two feet to a more impressive ten feet. Located among the rugged Pacific West Coast terrain, Jordan River offers a spectacular setting, even in gray and misty weather. Here are six things you should know about this underrated gem.
Winter Surfing Reigns Supreme
I told you you’d want to bring a wet suit: average water temperatures in the winter months are in the sub 50 zone, but that’s precisely when the surf is at its best. Late September to March are when you are most likely to encounter the best conditions.
You’ll want to kit up with a flexible 6/5/4mm wetsuit or a well-fitting 5/4mm wetsuit. Don’t forget your gloves, booties and hood.
Patience is a Virtue
The waves at Jordan River can be inconsistent. You will need to have the tide, wind and swell align in your favor to enjoy the best surf conditions. If you plan on stopping by for only a few days, you might not get the surf you were expecting.
The Point, Rock Piles and Sewers are the three main surf spots in Jordan River. Another option is Sombrio Beach, roughly 30 kilometers northwest of Jordan River and accessible via Highway 14.
The Locals Don’t Bite… Much
Jordan River can have great surf, but it can also be inconsistent. That means that when the waves do come out, the locals are hungry. Very hungry. The fight for the perfect wave can get a little intense. Because of this, the local surf community has earned itself a bit of a reputation, and the pecking order matters.
In fact, locals tend to stay mum around reporters, preferring to keep their surf zone as under the radar as possible. (Sorry!).
The reality is that most of the community members are actually quite friendly if you demonstrate respect and proper etiquette. Sure, there might be a few sour apples, but let’s face it—there are some in every community. As a whole, the locals are passionate about surfing and might be just a little protective over their territory.
… But to be Safe, Brush Up on Etiquette
It will be much easier to earn the respect of the local scene if you are up to speed on your surfing etiquette. Be courteous, wait your turn, and don’t poach someone else’s wave. Given the locale’s conditions, when the elusive “perfect wave” comes along, there might only be room for one person, and one person only.
If you’re new to surfing, Jordan River probably is not the best place to learn. Etiquette aside, the rocks and currents are typically not beginner-friendly. Learn the game—both the physical and the social—and check out Jordan River when you have a solid grip on things.
Check out the Juan de Fuca
Jordan River is right on the edge of the Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, an attraction that holds its own even against an incredible surf town. The coastal park features a 47-kilometer long wilderness hiking trail, the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Dotted with parks, beaches and campsites, the trail can be hiked in its entirety or in small portions. The spectacular sites make exploring at least part of the trail well worth your while.
Where to Stay?
Beyond camping or sticking it out in a camper van, there isn’t much in the way of accommodation in Jordan River proper. The nearby towns of Sooke (to the east) and Port Renfrew (to the west) offer hotels and motel options. You might also come across condos or small cabins available for nightly rentals in nearby communities.