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By Jane Cassie
For Travel Writers' Tales

I've never had great balance. Nor am I crazy about dipping into the frigid Pacific. So when my daughter, Emily, suggests we head to BC's West Coast for some surf time, I'm pretty sure she's flipped. In all my years of living, I've never set foot (or body) on a board-and I'm not sure now is the time to try. But I don't want to let her down. Over this past month she's been slammed with exams and pre-wedding pressures. And I feel honored that she's chosen me to escape with.

"Check out the wave scale, Mom," she says with a die-hard glee that makes me nervous. "It's extreme!" Sure enough, the arrow on Tofino's rating board is nearly off the chart. For Emily, this is a dream come true. For me, it affirms another goal-to somehow switch my surf lesson to a spa treatment.

After a previous stay at the Wickaninnish Inn, I know both our wishes will come true. This family-rooted Relais & Châteaux beauty promises 'Rustic Elegance on Nature's Edge.' As well as being a popular summer haunt, during these winter days, when southeast gales produce mammoth waves, it lures surfers by the droves. My heart does a drum-roll when I think about being included in this crazy mix.

We have the choice of either staying in the Pointe lodge for closer encounters with the turbulent tide, or the Beach lodge that offers sweeping views of the scalloped shoreline. All rooms boast the same frills; soaker tubs, fireplaces, and full-on ocean vistas. Wanting to get better acquainted with this angry sea before plummeting into it, I talk Emily into the latter.

In our chic suite we yack about everything from wedding venues to reception menus, watch chick flicks till the wee hours and lavish in some ocean-viewing tub time. And in a final attempt to build muscle mass before riding the crests we do a little workout in the fitness room. Yes, it has all the necessary components-just wish I did! Fortunately, a refueling opportunity is a short walk away at the Pointe Restaurant.

From its jetty bluff on Chesterman Beach, this post-and-beam gem sports a 240 degree vista of the untamed surf. Fine bone china and delicate stemware dress our hand-woven table runner, as do Pacific Northwest creations that are orchestrated by Chef Nicholas Nutting.

"Here's to your big surfing debut, Mom," Emily says, in a final toast at this award-winning eatery. "Chill out, you're going to love it."

I'm pretty sure I can live up to the first part of this request the following morning. Although feeling more like an oversized seal than a surfer, in my second skin of neoprene, we meet with a dozen much younger and fitter boarder-wanna-be's at Pacific Surf School.

"Paddle like the dickens, then pop up on your board," says Hannah Stevenson, one of our three experienced guides. "And don't lose sight of us. The next landmark is Japan!" The nearby Wick is calling out my name more than ever, but I can't turn back now. With board in tow and Emily by my side we attack the thunderous waves like whales in mating season. Raging rollers are formed in the distance, their curls navigable only by the pros. Within seconds they're upon us. Either we catch them or get pummeled by their white-water wake. After a few royal washes, my body meets the board and by the end of the lesson, I'm gliding on all fours and going with the flow.

"Next time you'll master the pop-up," Emily later reassures me, while we enjoy some pampering at the Wick's Ancient Cedars Spa. Beneath a sheltered alcove that fronts the Pacific we soak our worn and weathered feet, then trail off to our separate sanctuaries for more sublime action. For my daughter, it's a hot stone massage. For me, it's the Hishuk Ish Tswalk Awakening treatment, a whole meal signature deal that infuses the elements of life with indigenous traditional techniques.

Under the capable hands of Melios, (who could dub as a Greek God) my salt-filled pores are exfoliated, cleansed, steamed and rubbed. He says the Nuu chah nulth chant, declaring we are all connected, and while breathing in the heady scent of cedar and listening to the drone of distant waves, I drift off and dream about my next encounter with the surf.


How to get there:
BC Ferry Services

Where to stay:
Wickaninnish Inn
1.800.333.4604 Reservations Line

What to do:
Pacific Surf School

Photos: Jane Cassie and Emily Nixon

1. Jane and Emily relax in the lobby atrium. Photo by Jane Cassie
2. Yack about everything from wedding venues to reception menus. Photo by Jane Cassie
3. A toast at the Pointe Restaurant. Photo by Jane Cassie
4. I learn with other wanna-be surfers. Photo by Emily Nixon
5. Surf's up and we're ready to go. Photo by Emily Nixon
6. Mom and daughter tackle the surf. Photo by passerby -no credit needed
7. A side by side foot soak. Photo by Jane Cassie

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