Surfers often travel around the world in the pursuit of waves, in their practice of the sport and lifestyle all the same.

For those who have dreamt of catching that perfect wave, however elusive, well, learning how to surf is fortunately within reach for Vancouverites.

Here on the West Coast, surfing is hardly mentioned without Tofino, B.C.’s coldwater surf spot. Located on the west side of Vancouver Island on its own peninsula, it is often dubbed the “surfing capital” of Canada.

So if you want to try your hand, Tofino offers year-round surfing and breaking waves or “swells” that can challenge surfers of all levels.

Estuardo Ventura, general manager of Pacific Surf School in Tofino, says beginners would ideally take a surf lesson.

“We teach people about surfing, so not only just how to stand up on the surfboard, but we educate them about the ocean environment, so we teach them about currents and hazards, about safety. We educate people so they can tackle any beach, any surf spot, anywhere in the world,” he said.

Pacific Surf School has been providing surf lessons and camps for all ages since 1998.

Offering a five-to-one student-to-teacher ratio, a basic group lesson includes all necessary gear — wetsuit, booties, gloves and board — and runs three hours for $79 per person. Private lessons are also available as well as family and custom group sessions.

Ventura says one lesson will get you going so you can then apply your new skills in the water. He says time in the water is needed and like anything, only practice makes perfect.

Over the past several years, the number of women participating in surfing has grown exponentially, says Krissy Montgomery, manager and owner of Surf Sister, a women’s surf school in Tofino with a crew of all-female instructors.

Surf Sister’s goal is to promote women in surfing by offering a safe and fun learning environment.

“Women approach the sport differently than males and are often a bit more cautious, and we are able to provide them with that extra bit of encouragement and knowledge to get them out there and enjoying the sport,” Montgomery says.

“Also, women tend to look to other women for inspiration.”

Having respect for the elements as well as the locals is also something to be mindful of when you’re in the water.

“The number one surfing rule is the drop-in rule,” Ventura says. “So what the drop-in rule states is one person per wave. This rule is not set for the best surfers to get the best waves. It is just there for any person who is in the line-up to catch their wave and take their turn so you don’t have two, three or four people all going for the same wave. That’s when accidents happen.”

Surf lessons in Tofino are available throughout the year with summer being high season, but Ventura says spring and fall often have the best waves.

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