the voyage of the loch ryan

The Last Voyage of the Loch Ryan

by Andrew Struthers

(the first installment of excerpts from his new book)

Seen from day to day,
the course of a human life
remains hidden.


So what looks like a backwater sometimes leads down to the Amazon. On one such eddy of a late summer evening, I ran into Adam Busker.

Adam is a huge guy with a missing front tooth who lives in a cabin on Frank Island, which is connected to Chestermans Beach, near Tofino, by a sandspit. He could only get home at low tide, and this tied him to the cycle of the moon. He worked in construction and was a steady sort, but because the moon was the heart of his life rather than the sun he kept odd hours. When I ran into him, night was coming on, but he was headed down to Long Beach to surf.

We chatted idly by his truck. I talked knowledgeably about surfing, although I'd only tried it once. He said once was not enough. I said I'd only had the chance once. He said he had an extra suit and board. Checkmate.

We pulled into the parking lot at Long Beach, that magic spot where only driftwood separates the cars from the waves. Adam cracked a green Tupperware bin and out slopped a soaking wad of neoprene. It was my suit.

The wet material was almost impossible to slide over my skin. It took me five minutes to wrestle my foot into the suit's clammy leg. Finally I said, "Is it meant to be so tight? I can't bend my knee."

He said, "That's because you've got your leg through the arm."

Once my legs and arms were in the right places we carried our boards down to the shore. The waves looked pretty small, perhaps three or four feet high. Adam lay on his board and paddled, and I did the same, paddled into the first wave, which suddenly reared overhead like a herd of distempered horses. It knocked me off my board, tumbled me like a sock in a washing machine. So did the next.

Twenty waves later there was a lull, and I paddled like mad. I made it over the lip of the next wave just before it crashed. The roar sucked away like a fleeing crowd, and it became so quiet I could hear gulls. I looked around. The surface was deep, dark green, an impossible Rembrandt green. White foam champed at the glassy water right behind Adam, who had just caught a good one.

Then the water gathered up in front of me like a hill on a highway. A low rumble. I was terrified. I cowered behind my board, but it didn't help. The wave drove the board into my face so hard my fillings rang like xylophone keys. My board tore free, a fingernail bent back, soft and sickening. My ankle got yanked down by the leash, all the way down, and it got very quiet and very cold. I saw the boiling underbelly of the wave pass overhead. Water rushed in on me from all directions. Then I shot out the back of the wave with an enormous gasp. I couldn't catch my breath. My nose and chin where the board hit were numb as holes, no sensation at all. I dragged myself ashore, puked, and watched the others surf.

Next day I ached like I'd been shot out of a cannon. I decided surfing was not the sport for me. But it was too late. I had seen that holy rolling moment surfers call the Break, and it drew me back like heroin stroking the thigh of a horny poet.

A few weeks later September pulled up, the gorbies left in chevrons, and the surf place behind the coffee shop had a sale on its battle-weary rental suits. I found one going for a hundred bucks because there was a slight rip in the neck, and the arms and legs were purple. My life as a surfer had begun.

I went out every day. By spring I only came ashore to eat and sleep. I spent the days zipped into my skintight rubber suit, trailing on a leash, getting my head thrust under freezing water over and over, and my board whacking me on the head and ass until I felt like a neoprene piñata. I was in constant pain as my muscles slowly tore apart and reformed.

Winter came again, and all I'd done for a year is surf. Even on the shortest day of the year I found myself running down the beach listening to ice crystals crunching under the sand. Out at the Break, hail pinged off my board. The water was cold as a banker's handshake. Waves drummed slowly against black rock. In the fog around me a murder of surfers cowl over their boards like strange offshore birds, the brims of their wetsuit hoods dripping like beaks. Arms crossed for warmth. Glancing at each other.

I felt at home here. But there was a restlessness growing inside of me, and I didn't know what it meant.

Andrew Struthers homesteaded in Clayoquot Sound for ten years, three on the MV Loch Ryan and seven in a hand-hewn pyramid on Poole's Land, surfing obsessively and only coming ashore to eat and sleep, until the Federal Government informed him that there was no such profession. He once stalked George Lucas by mistake.

Tofino Books

tofino | tofino time | activities | accommodation | events | directory
maps | travel | food | art & artists | photos | horoscope | tides
search | magazine | issues | articles | advertising | contact us

hosted in tofino by & studio tofino
© 2002-2014 copyright Tofino Time Magazine in Tofino Canada
© 2002-2011 Tofino Time Magazine & ThinkTank Design Inc.

tofino time december 2003

quick links:
tofino accomodations
tofino calendar

tofino surf report
tofino horoscope
september horoscope
tofino map
tofino fishing report
tofino tides
tofino weddings

tofino events:
tofino concerts
tofino events
tofino movies
tofino festivals
tofino yoga classes

tofino time magazine:
tofino time september 2012
captain vincente tofino
readers choice: the best of tofino
floating gardens at freedom cove
tofino event listings for september 2012
tofino concerts in september 2012
tofino movies in september 2012
tofino tide table for september 2012
tofino surf reports for september 2012
cox bay | wickaninnish beach
chesterman beach
tonquin beach
tofino brewing co.
horoscope for april 2013
tofino wedding guide

tofino accommodation:
tofino cabin
tofino camping
bed & breakfasts in Tofino
tofino hostels
tofino motels
tofino hotels
tofino vacation rentals
petfriendly accommodation

tofino bike rentals
tofino bear watching
tofino bird watching
tofino boat charters & cruises
tofino fishing
hot springs cove
sea kayaking in tofino
tofino storm watching
tofino surfing
tofino whale watching
tofino yoga

tofino art galleries
tofino books
tofino boutiques & gift shops
food stores in tofino
tofino outfitters

tofino yoga, spa & wellness
tofino restaurants
tofino internet cafes
tofino travel & transportation
tofino real estate
tofino vacation rentals
tofino weddings

tofino events
tofino concerts
tofino movies
tofino calendar
tofino cabins
tofino maps
tofino jobs
tofino media