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Embracing the storms in Tofino, BC

November 18, 2011 - Stormy weather often means running for cover or hunkering down inside, but not on the West Coast. On Vancouver Island, where winter storms can whip up hurricane force winds, people go outside to get wet and cold on purpose.
Rainy, blustery days are what Tofino, BC in the winter is known for, drawing locals and tourists alike to the shorelines of western Vancouver Island.

“This morning when I heard the rain before I got out of bed I thought this is the perfect time to go walk on the beach, watch the surf and just enjoy the storm season,” says storm watcher Lorraine Douville.

Meanwhile, tourist David Sebenda faces stormy conditions head on.
“It kind of hurts when it pelts me in the face but just tough it out.”

While most would rather hunker down and wait for the rough weather to pass, in Tofino, they embrace it.

“Usually at home we all dress up nicely and stay home and just be nice and dry, but this is the time to experience and live,” says Douville.

The history of storm-watching dates back to the 1950's or sooner, no one’s quite sure.

Charles McDiarmid’s family has owned a certain cabin for decades. It’s where his family would gather to watch storms.

“Watching a 30 foot wave just roll right in and crash on the rocks in front and explode in sea foam 40 feet high is pretty amazing,” says McDiarmid, Managing Director of Wickaninnish Inn.
That cabin is also the inspiration behind his family building the world-famous Wickaninnish Inn, where storm-watching isn’t just a sideshow, it’s the main event.

“Here, mother nature is not the inconvenience, mother nature is the experience and so I think for many it’s the attraction of seeing mother nature up close, performing at her best.“
Winds there can gust up to 100 km/h, even reaching hurricane force in big storms. That in turn can churn up waves up to 30-feet high.

Storm-watching as a hobby has become increasingly popular over the years and the colder and wetter you get, the better.

“I’ve got enough layers on to be warm and there’s a dryer waiting for my clothes when I get home,” jokes Douville.

As they say in Tofino, there is no bad weather, just bad clothing choices.

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