On the west coast of Vancouver Island, Canada, you will find the laid-back peninsular town of Tofino. Surrounded by breathtaking mountain ranges, quiet inlets, and wild coastal parks, the town is known for numerous beaches offering up consistent waves and chilly waters. Despite being one of the coldest places to surf on the planet, Tofino has become home to a thriving community of female surfers.
Tofino is not a convenient place to surf. It takes time and dedication, not to mention a lot of motivation to plunge into freezing water. On a global scale, it might be a surprise to find this secluded community with such a high population of not only surfers, but female surfers.On any given day, these women can be found paddling out from the shore of Cox Bay or North Chesterman Beach. They are proving that both grit and grace can come from surfing cold waves and that thick neoprene is not as restrictive as one might assume.
Regardless of gender, surfing is not an easy sport to master, or even try as a beginner. It takes a lot of patience and practice to dance with the sea. As well as the essential step of leaving your pride on the shore. For women, it has been arguably a greater challenge to take up surfing.Long considered a male-dominated sport, women have struggled to find other women to surf with, forcing them to paddle for waves alone among crowds of men in the lineup. But here in Tofino, women easily make up half the surfers in the water. It is uncommon to find an equal proportion of women and men at other surf breaks around the world.But it isn’t just the quantitative representation that women have in Tofino, it is also the respect that they receive, both in the ocean and in the town itself.Bryanna Bradley is a Canadian photographer originally from Ottawa, who now resides in Tofino. Her photography gravitates towards the water, specifically female surfing, as the ocean is where she feels the most at home.
In Tofino, you will find the thriving female-led Surf Sister surf school, and many other local businesses succeeding at the hands of the town’s many strong and creative women. The town also hosts a yearly all-female surf competition, Queen of the Peak. The competition was created in 2009 to celebrate and showcase the amazing surf talent onVancouver Island.
The natural elements that surround the town surely have an influence on how the community and culture embraces its women. The ocean creates a life of evolution for the Tofino locals: the ebb and flow of the changing tides, the waves that range from welcoming to vicious, the unpredictable weather and distinctive seasons, and the flocks of visitors. The town and its community have had to adjust to the constant movement of nature. Perhaps it is the cyclical nature of the ocean itself that has connected so deeply with the cyclical nature of the female spirit.
Tofino showcases the beauty of sisterhood through the connection that its women have to the ocean and to the practice of surfing. No matter the water temperature or size of the rolling waves, and despite the unpredictable (and often unfavourable) nature of the weather, you will find the women of Tofino making their way out to the water all year round. Young and old, their silhouettes are painted in thick wetsuits as they cling to their colourful boards, gliding across the horizon as they dance with the ocean on their home waters.
Bryanna Bradley is a photographer originally from Ottawa Ontario, but now residing in Tofino, British Columbia. Her photography gravitates towards the water, specifically female surfing, as the ocean is where she feels the most at home.
“It takes a lot of patience and practice to dance with the sea. As well as the essential step of leaving your pride on the shore.”