Big Friday

Story & photos by James Murray

I had just acquired my new form of housing, a 1974 Vanguard motor home. My friend Sarah had decided to loan us (my friend Ian and I) her old home from last year, for the winter. Our plan was to live within as close proximity of the beach as we could, and surf as much as possible for the next few months.


I spent the first five days in Jeffery (the name Sarah had given the motor-home in memory of a friend with similar, quirky idiosyncrasies) by myself, parked at one of south Vancouver Island’s best point breaks. The forecast called for a solid west swell that was to peak by Friday. I had set up camp on Thursday, and awaited with anxiousness the waves - which were to arrive the following day. I awoke the next morning at around 6:30, after having drifted off with a stomach full of potato hash and beer.

Paddling out to the point after breakfast and a stretch, only myself and a few others constituted the nearly empty morning lineup. The day was starting out quite nicely. With the frequency of sets being every few minutes, and ranging between 3-5ft in height, it was fair to say that everybody was getting their share of the lengthy right – handers. I had been out for about an hour and a half, when the nose of my board smashed into the rocks, which lay below. The resulting damage was a massive ding, which would require serious attention and time. Being forced out of the water, I reluctantly walked back to Jeffery knowing full well that the waves were only going to get better throughout the day.

A few hours after being back on land, what I knew would happen, did. The size of the waves began increasing, and the frequency of the ever-growing sets followed suite. Soon the average wave height was eight feet, then nine. Then sets ranging in the ten-foot-plus range became common. Surprisingly the lineup of surfers had only grown to about nine people, which for the present conditions was unheard of. My camera soon replaced my surfboard as the tool of choice. The surfers present were of a higher caliber, allowing for some incredibly well played out maneuvers to be captured in time. As I turned and looked south, I could see the next break, about two hundred meters away, barreling. Such a display of wave perfection is generally reserved for the likes of those in Tahiti, Indonesia, or Hawaii. The prevailing offshore wind had begun to die as well, creating the sought after glassy conditions every surfer dreams of.

Wave conditions such as these only come along a few times a year, so being able to photograph one such day so extensively was a treat to say the least. Soon the point break I had been surfing at five feet only three hours earlier was barreling at ten feet, giving some of the surfers the deepest tube rides I have ever witnessed on the island. The rides often lasted for a good thirty seconds, making a walk back along the beach to the point a much more sensible option than paddling back out through the ever breaking sets. While greeting many of the surfers as they walked back out to the point from their phenomenally long rides, smiles loomed far and wide. Evidence of the sheer exhilaration felt by all with their prior encounter with mother nature, and the energy she’s capable of exhibiting, via the ocean, was all too evident.

With each passing hour, one could see that the cold and fatigue were gradually affecting all those who were doing their best to get just one more ride. As the sun finally punched out for the day, so did the remainder of the by now, bone-chilled wave riders. Everybody had filled their quota for the day; I with my early morning rides, and massive photo collection, and the rest of the present surfing populace with their stand-up barrels and endless cutbacks.

The following day as I sat in Jeffery going over my shots from the previous day, I was visited by a couple of my surfing buddies: Ollie and Chris. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and as we caught up, the topic of yesterday's surf inevitably came up. They had both gone out to a different spot a few kilometers up the road, and had raved that the waves were epic. After the ensuing debate (which happens all too often) as to where the waves were best, I brought out my camera to back up my claim of it being a perfect day at the point. As they began flipping through the photos, their jaws dropped. I thought to myself, if there was ever a time to use the age - old surfer adage that everybody hates to hear, it was now, then I calmly stated, “You should have been here yesterday.”


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