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Sierra magazine
Escape | To a Canadian Surf Camp

By Steve Hawk

Beano Creek Eco Surf Village

WHERE Nootka Island,
British Columbia, Canada
4 days, 3 nights: $1,400

GETTING THERE A slog. Fly to Vancouver, rent overpriced car, ferry to Vancouver Island, spend night in creepy port town of Nanaimo, rise before dawn, drive four hours to tiny tree-shrouded fishing village of Gold River, load gear onto open-air boat, speed for an hour through impossibly glassy water to lee side of Nootka Island, transfer to rust-bucket van, bounce for 45 minutes past many piles of bright-purple bear scat to Pacific coast, schlep 200 yards to oceanfront compound, climb vertiginous staircase to Dr. Seuss treehouse, admire stunning view of cobblestone beach, drink celebratory beer, nap.

BEST MOMENT Discovering and being the first to ride (and thus christen) a world-class surf spot 10 miles down-coast from the resort, as many befuddled otters looked on, then biting my tongue as unimaginative friend insisted on naming the break "Otters." (Runner-up: losing postsurf chills while sipping single malt in the resort's wood-fired sauna.)

WORST MOMENT Catching (and releasing) anchovy-size rainbow trout in cold rain and inadequate booties on Beano Creek, which allegedly teems with steelhead and salmon.

FAVORITE CHARACTER Owner Clay Hunting's heartbreakingly loyal three-legged, 20-year-old(!) dog, Tye, who joined his master and guests on treacherous hikes over the spiky deadfall of clearcut hillsides. (Runner-up: the slow-moving black bear that unknowingly kept several surfers from exiting the water one afternoon while it investigated, then carried off, a rancid six-foot squid on the beach.)

LOCAL LORE Hunting's nearest neighbors on Nootka (the size of Barbados, with only seven full-time residents) left home for a few weeks without adequately securing their store of fishy fertilizer from the island's disturbingly large mouse population. The mice transferred the fertilizer to nests inside the home's walls. An intruding bear, smelling food behind the drywall, literally tore the place apart. Lesson learned and imparted daily to Beano Creek guests: Clean all crumbs, always.

WHAT'S GREEN The cozy main lodge, tight as Tupperware, is made of lumber that Hunting harvested and milled on-site from trees felled by a now-defunct logging operation. His wife, Silvi, serves tasty organic meals, including athlete-friendly pasta slathered with chanterelle mushrooms gathered by guests. The lone restroom, an open-air outhouse, uses zero water and has a five-star view of spruce, hemlock, moss, and ferns.

WHAT'S NOT GREEN There are good waves within hiking distance, but scoring great surf can require an hour-long ride north or south on a boat powered by twin 180-horsepower outboards. The resort burns 88 gallons of fuel per week.

PLANET-SAVING OPPORTUNITIES None on-site. An ambitious eco-warrior could sneak off and chain him- or herself to a skidder at one of the island's ongoing logging operations, but that would be quixotic.

See more photos of Beano Creek Eco Surf Village.

Photo by Jeff Gill; map by Peter and Maria Hoey



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