Kayakers always talk about “The Greatest”. What’s the greatest canyon, or helmet, or vehicle to tour in, boat for the Grand Canyon or the greatest wave. Well, I think I can put the debate of the greatest wave to rest. There is a place in a glacier carved fjord, off the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia called Sechelt Inlet. There is a narrow section of this great body of water that forms a series of rapids during tidal swings called Skookumchuck. On positive floods, meaning the water is running into the inlet, a marvelous wave forms. This wave has a silky smooth face with fluffy pile of backwash that varies depending on how fast the water is flowing past.
I’ve known of Skook (as many call it) for a long time. I’ve even tried to go there a hand full of times. But every time, something came up that kept me away...until now. I was preparing myself for a little let down that it couldn't be as great as everyone says, but Skook lived up to its reputation. As I took my first paddle strokes onto the giant glassy face I was hooked. Ever get that feeling you had as a child on christmas morning when you first see the presents under the tree? This is how I felt, Skook is a gift to surfers and kayakers who make the journey and play in the salty waters.
Skookumchuck is located in the entrance to the Sechelt Inlet, on the British Columbia Sunshine Coast of Canada. It’s a 40 minute ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Langsdale. The Ferry ride is super fun on it’s own. Make sure to go to the top deck and enjoy the views. Once at Langsdale, take the Sunshine Coast highway around to the North West to the small hamlet of Egmont. From Seattle to Egmont is about 6.5 hours including the ferry. Possibly longer if you have to wait a long time for the next ferry to arrive. They seem to run about every two hours during the day. Look here for a complete Ferry schedule.
You can plan your Skook trip years in advance with a tide chart. You want to look at the flood speed to know when the wave is good. We hear it can be fun down to 10 knots, But during our trip it was 13-14.4. This was really big and fun! It would start out slow with a small flushy green wave and build steadily until reaching max flow when the wave was giant. We found that at about two hours before max flood you wanted to be there and ready to go. You can watch it change from a slack water lake to a rowdy wave and jump in when you like what you see. You could keep surfing for a few hours after peak as the wave gets smaller too.
Most people talk about “The Tour”. This is when you miss the eddy and get swept down into the giant waves, boils and whirlpools that form on a massive eddy line below the wave. This is the real deal at times and is definitely class V big water if you are in the meat of it. You can do a couple of variations to either side that avoid the largest features and deposit you a quarter to a half mile down stream. This is is not too bad as there is a massive eddy on river right that you can ride back up to right below the wave. It will take a few surfs out of your day but everyone goes on tour from time to time.
Most people surf in modern playboats. The JK Rockstar was the most common boat we saw used and for good reason. But people surf Skook on SUPs, surf kayaks, sea kayaks and surfboards. Many of the locals use composite playboats and surf boats and make it look really amazing.
We stayed at the Strongwater campground just up from the Marina in Egmont, BC. The owners love kayakers and are very friendly and relaxed. The Campground is right across the road from the start of the trail leading to Skook. We paddled in the first day then left our boats in the boat rack hidden in the forest at the wave and then rode our mountain bikes in & out the following days. On the last day we hiked in and paddled back to the Egmont Marina. There doesn’t seem to be any free camping options in the area. Strongwater had OK Wifi as did the local marina store and bakery/coffee shop. Our US AT&T cell phones didn't get any cell service until we got closer to the ferry terminal in Langsdale.
All the locals were super friendly and welcoming. Our most crowded day surfing had less than 10 people in the water, along with dozens of tourists hiking in to see the wave. Some tourists arrived in motor boats that ferried up beside the wave to watch us surf. It was a unique and fun experience having a 30+ foot motorboat right next to the wave with passengers cheering you on.
I hope this info helps you plan your trip to Skookumchuck. It really is unlike anywhere you have ever kayaked and the quality of the wave couldn't be better. I can't think of another wave this big and glassy. I hope you put this on your short term to-do list as it’s that amazing.
Famagogo goes to Skookumchuck
Famagogo visits possibly the best wave in the world. Skookumchuck lives up to the hype and we loved it. Here is a quick tour of our visit to beautiful British Columbia. This video features some of the wonderful local paddlers such as Emily and Drew, Ben Marr and many others. Everyone was super friendly and welcoming. This should be a mandatory destination for anyone who likes to surf a kayak.