Catch the wave

Surfers on the East Coast boast world-class ex­pe­ri­ences, but pre­pare for cold weather

Times Colonist - - Travel - ALY THOMSON

Cal­i­for­nian Daniel Fahie is go­ing surf­ing, but it’s not what you think. Clad in snug win­ter wet­suits, Fahie and his 15-year-old daugh­ter Mi­randa carry two surf­boards un­der their arms to­ward Nova Sco­tia’s Lawrencetown Beach and plunge belly-first into the frigid wa­ters of the At­lantic Ocean.

It’s hov­er­ing around 1 C at the pic­turesque beach on the prov­ince’s East­ern Shore, renowned for its waves and year-round surf­ing.

“We woke up this morn­ing and saw snow and said, ‘Let’s go to the ocean!’ That’s what nor­mal peo­ple do, right?” said 53-year-old Daniel Fahie, a be­gin­ner surfer who is from the Hal­i­fax area but has lived in Cal­i­for­nia for two decades. “It’s fun and it’s great for her to get out and ex­pe­ri­ence what’s it’s like to be in the wa­ter in the cold.”

Many as­sume that surf­ing is a sum­mer-only ac­tiv­ity, but Nova Sco­tia’s consistent off­shore weather dur­ing the win­ter months makes for spec­tac­u­lar waves up to five days a week, surfer Pete Cove says.

“That’s what’s so ap­peal­ing as a surfer to want to get in the wa­ter when it’s -2 C in the wa­ter and -20 C in the air,” said Cove, who works with the East Lawrence town based East Coast Surf School .“We have ab­so­lutely amaz­ing con­di­tions with a fairly small com­mu­nity of surfers.”

The school — founded by Nova Sco­tia pro­fes­sional surfer Nico Manos — of­fers surf­ing lessons by ap­point­ment all year at Lawrencetown Beach Pro­vin­cial Park, a scenic 30-minute drive from down­town Hal­i­fax.

This year, the school is also run­ning a se­ries of group surf­ing lessons from De­cem­ber through May at White Point Beach Re­sort in White Point, N.S.

Win­ter surf­ing looks a lot like sum­mer surf­ing, but with more cloth­ing.

The Fahies wore big smiles as they pad­dled their surf­boards straight into the waves and even­tu­ally at­tempted to pop up on their boards.

They ap­peared un­phased by the chilly ocean wa­ter.

Cove com­pared surf­ing on a cold day to ski­ing or snow­board­ing on a cold day — the win­ter wet­suits cover al­most your en­tire body and keep you “quite warm.”

“I don’t think there’s any feel­ing like catch­ing a wave and hav­ing the en­ergy of a wave pro­pel you to­ward shore on a board,” said Cove, a for­mer pro­fes­sional life­guard who has been surf­ing for 13 years.

He warned that ab­so­lute be­gin­ners face a steep learn­ing curve, but the school has an 80 per cent suc­cess rate of stu­dents stand­ing on their board dur­ing the first les­son.

“You don’t have to be a pro to have an ab­so­lute blast in the wa­ter,” said Cove, stand­ing on a board­walk un­der a cold rain as waves crashed into the rugged shore­line.

“Of­ten times our stu­dents have a re­ally good time belly rid­ing and if that’s their goal, to just have fun and catch a wave and only ride it on their stom­ach, then that’s a suc­cess for us.”

Cove con­ceded many peo­ple, even lo­cals, are sur­prised you can surf in Nova Sco­tia at all, let alone dur­ing the prov­ince’s harsh win­ter months.

“We’re a lit­tle bit off the beaten path. It’s some­thing that is unique to this area that peo­ple don’t ex­pect that you can ac­tu­ally do, and it’s a lit­tle more wild,” said Cove.

He said Nova Sco­tia surf­ing is “world-class.”

“If you look at the coast­line here, it’s pretty spec­tac­u­lar. You don’t have the mas­sive crowds that you have in most places that are re­ally known for surf­ing. It’s a great spot for learn­ing, but also to grow as a surfer and be­come an ex­pert-level surfer as well.”


Surf­ing is a year-round ac­tiv­ity in Nova Sco­tia with great con­di­tions and am­ple re­sources to ac­com­mo­date all skill lev­els.

Daniel Fahie and his 15-year-old daugh­ter Mi­randa head to the wa­ter at Lawrencetown Beach.

Pete Cove, an in­struc­tor at the East Coast Surf School: “We have ab­so­lutely amaz­ing con­di­tions with a fairly small com­mu­nity of surfers.”


Pete Cove, an in­struc­tor at the East Coast Surf School, talks about win­ter surf­ing with Daniel Fahie, left, and his daugh­ter Mi­randa at Lawrencetown Beach.

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