Though there’s certainly a following for the sport, there’s really no opportunity to go surfing in the Sea to Sky. A group of residents is looking to change that.
The recently-formed Pemberton Valley Surf Association (PVSA) is hoping to turn the seldom-used kayak park at the Rutherford Creek powerhouse into a river surfing centre. The group has quickly gained a following in the Whistler-Pemberton community after the idea was first brought up a couple of months ago.
“I just started spitballing the idea with friends and it’s really just kind of grown rapidly,” said PVSA president Tyler Kraushar. “I was just driving by the Rutherford one day and thought that realistically … we could build one rather cheaply because the infrastructure’s already there.”
The concept involves building a standing wave at the end of the kayak course, with a goal to have it up and running by next summer. While designs and plans are still in the very early stages, the PVSA is looking at river waves surfed elsewhere in the world for inspiration, such as one found on the Eisbach River in Munich, Germany, and another concept under construction on Alberta’s Lower Kananaskis River.
Surfing communities are starting to pop up in landlocked locations as river surfing gains popularity, but the culture of the sport is already very much in place in the Sea to Sky corridor.
“I think a lot of people here surf and a lot of people who come to live here for the season surf,” said Kraushar. “I want somewhere where I can just go surf in my backyard, that way when I go on a vacation somewhere my skills are sharp and I’m ready to go.”
The kayak course provides an ideal location because the water flow can be turned off and on, and few modifications would need to be made in order to establish the surf park, said Kraushar.
“We’re not ripping up the ground or anything, we’re just adding features to the existing structure of the park,” he said.
Kraushar has had meeting with members of the Surf Anywhere project on the Kananaskis and the group is working on a design that will work best for the Rutherford area. The PVSA envisions a finished project that would feature an adjustable wave and mechanisms to ensure safe use of the park. Memberships would be sold to users at an affordable rate to help cover insurance and operating costs.
“Even to go to Tofino it will cost at least $1,000 … for a week over there,” said Kraushar. “We’re going to be providing a much cheaper option in that it won’t even cost $1,000 for your membership for the year and you can go surf everyday if you want.”
The group has also had positive early discussions with powerhouse operator Innergex and the Village of Pemberton, and has also been approached by Select Contracts, a company with Whistler offices that specializes in adventure tourism projects, with some ideas.
Ideally, construction would begin once the snow melts next spring, but that will be partially dependent on project funding. The PVSA estimates it will cost between $20,000 and $30,000 to get the park up and running.
Although many individuals involved with the project will be able to provide free labour, the PVSA will be fundraising over the next few months to help reach its goal. A fundraiser is planned for Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. at Big Sky Golf and Country Club, with silent auction and raffle prizes up for grabs. Another one is expected to be held in Whistler in November.
“Really, it’s just a bunch of guys that have an idea and it’s grassroots. Nobody’s looking to get paid, it’s all going to be under a non-profit, we’re just trying to get people stoked to help out and pitch in,” said Kraushar.
“Anyone who wants to chip in volunteer time, donations, whatever, we’re wide open and we’re willing to praise them and thank them as much as possible.”
Individuals interested in helping out the PVSA, or businesses that would like to contribute to the upcoming fundraiser can contact Kraushar at email@example.com or 604-935-0962. More information is available on the ‘Pemberton Valley Surf’ Facebook group.