You can tack and jibe all over Vancouver Island, gliding on tranquil freshwater lakes or jumping pounding breakers along the coast of British Columbia. Nitinat Lake will satisfy speed freaks, while novices can ride onshore winds in Cadboro Bay and Dallas Road in Victoria BC. Wherever you choose to boardsail, picturesque surroundings will provide the perfect setting for a memorable day in the sun.
The accessible shorelines and good weather in Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island allow windsurfers to take advantage of all wind directions.
Try Cadboro Bay Beach, a prime location for intermediate shortboarders, or Willows Beach in Oak Bay if you enjoy the ocean breeze – a couple of hard upwind tacks will bring you to Cattle Point.
Expert wave sailors can launch at the bottom of Cook Street near downtown Victoria – hazards here include strong winds, tidal currents and floating logs. From Dallas Road, a walkway drops down to an open cobble beach with many driftwood logs everywhere – a popular site for sailboarding.
Esquimalt Lagoon offers good sailing for beginners, and Elk Lake in Elk / Beaver Lake Regional Park, located about twenty minutes north of Victoria on Highway 17, is also a popular windsurfing destination for beginners.
Cowichan Lake also provides a takeoff point for excellent windsurfing.
You’ll often find a stiff breeze offshore at Pipers Lagoon Regional Park in Nanaimo.
Goose Spit Regional Park in Comox is one of the best windsurfing locations on the central coast. A long neck of sand curves out into Comox Harbour, where a strong wind rises most afternoons as winds funnel off the Strait of Georgia and up the flanks of Forbidden Plateau. To find the park, head south of Comox on Comox Road, then turn left on Pritchard Road and right on Balmoral to Lazo Road, beyond which Balmoral becomes Hawkins Road and leads out to the spit.
Beyond Sooke on Highway 14 is Jordan River, where surfers ride the swells of the Pacific Ocean year-round.
Stiff winds funnel through the Alberni Inlet and make China Creek Park a hot place to be for serious windsurfers. The only problem is the numerous boaters who also flock to the park in fishing season in July.
Because of its wide expanse and western exposure, Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park is the beach of choice for freewheeling, Maui-style windsurfing when the ocean gets riled.
In Tofino you’ll find a small but dedicated group of aficionados who live here year-round, while another coterie safaris over as often as possible, particularly in winter months when storm season produces the best peeling surf.
The ocean temperature here hovers at a constant and chilly 6 to 7 Degrees Celcius year round. It hardly matters what month it is: it’s the waves that count. Tofino does boast the highest annual mean temperature in Canada (coincidentally, the same as the water temperature), which will help remove some of the sting if you think about it hard enough while you’re paddling out to catch one more wave.
Some of the finest windsurfing in North America draws devotees to Nitinat Lake from around the globe. You have to be dedicated to make the long journey to the west side of Vancouver Island, and you have to be good to handle the constant thermal winds that sweep across the lake at speeds of up to 50 kph. Don’t wait until you get to the lake to begin building upper-body strength. You’re going to need all the buff you can bring with you.
Windsurfers flock to long and blustery Nimpkish Lake just south of Port McNeill. From spring through fall reliable “thermals” create winds of up to 30 knots during the day.