Brigitte Rudan and her toddler, Alexander, caught the monster wave storm from a safe viewing area established on the Wild Pacific Trail. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino and Ucluelet wowed by biggest waves in a decade

“Even in pictures you show the kids and that, unless you’re witnessing it live, it’s like no other.”

Some locals say it’s been almost a decade since they’ve witnessed waves of such grandeur.

For the majority, Thursday’s “black swell” that closed public access to Ucluelet and Tofino beaches and had surf forecast sites projecting over 30-feet waves, was a first time in a lifetime.

Jim and Jill Wilkin, visitors from Sherwood Park, Alberta, said in the 20 years they’ve been coming to the Coast, they’ve never seen a storm like that.

“I don’ think you can describe it adequately,” Jim told the Westerly News from the safe viewing area established at Amphitrite Point.

“Even in pictures you show the kids and that, unless you’re witnessing it live, it’s like no other,” said Jill.

“Unless you come out and experience it, the sounds, even lying in bed when it first started, the sounds are something we’ve never experienced. The force of nature is beyond your comprehension unless you actually come here and see it,” she said.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne Instagrammed an unusual find she came across after walking the high tide line after the storm.

“We rarely see the tombolo out to Frank Island so flat, so clean, and so devoid of detritus,” she wrote. “The storm removed a lot of sand from middle Chesterman Beach and unveiled another stump from the World War Two era when the beach was lined with tall posts to prevent enemy planes from landing.”

Longtime Ucluelet local Mark Fortune said he noticed surge channels flooding right onto parts of the Wild Pacific Trail as he walked his dog early in the morning.

“It’s pretty spectacular. It gives you a real appreciation of the power of the ocean,” he said.

Fortune, who is the Deputy Fire Chief for the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade, said he thought the District was being proactive for closing off a lot of the trail for public safety.

“A lot of people don’t realize just looking out they see one wave, you know the rocks look clear in front of us here, but five minutes ago this whole area was just awash with ocean water.”

“You have to read the terrain the rocks. Never turn your back on the ocean and never put yourself in a spot of jeopardy. Once again, you’re witnessing a lot of raw power and it’s impressive when viewed from a safe distance,” he said.

Parks Canada issued an Extreme Wave Hazard advisory for the Pacific Rim region for Jan. 18 to Jan. 20. In an informal conversation with a Parks Canada staffer and a member of the West Coast Inland Search and Rescue team, the Westerly was informed that no rescues were reported during the storm. However, several visitors had “close calls” with the high tide and got their pant legs and socks drenched.

Folks heading out to do some storm watching are reminded to respect the ocean and be CoastSmart, by staying above the high tide and off rocks and logs.

Roy Wilmin and Silva Johansson were giddy as school kids to see waves as big as buildings smash into the rocks by Amphitrite Point. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

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