Westcoast Triple Plank is for the children, and the adults too. It’s about inclusive good times in loose Vancouver Island, BC style. It’s about assembling hippies and rippers (hippers?) and heshers, kids and moms and dads, and whoever else wants to join in on the fun to slide down a mountain, a wave, a concrete bowl. People come from all over the Pacific Northwest, some further afield. The common bond? Board riding, mostly. But there’s something else.
It’s about building momentum. And not just the gravity-fed kind. At Westcoast Triple Plank, there’s an overt understanding that we love the places that we play. That we must do our best to care for them. Minimize our impact and give back where we can. It’s about environmental preservation and education, and shared responsibility. It might be a snow/skate/surf contest, but really, it’s about giving back.
Marie-France Roy doesn’t like to take much credit, but the effort she puts into Westcoast Triple Plank is hard to quantify. Sorry, Marie, but you deserve all the respect in the world for the huge lift that is the Triple Plank. Three contests in two days in three locations, plus a volunteer habitat restoration day at the end? I wouldn’t blame you for being tired even now, a week after the event.
Marie called the Triple Plank “a little hectic,” and I’d call it the busiest four days of my season. It began with a dig day up at a closed Mount Washington Alpine Resort. The biggest ski area on the Island (and one of only two serving 850,000 folks who reside on this 230-mile-long stretch of ocean-bound rainforest), Mount Washington is a family-style spot, with fairly mellow terrain off the frontside, and a few steeps towards the Strait of Georgia off the backside to the northeast. It’s nostalgic for me. It’s where I grew up riding, learned to dig the sketchy walls of a cat-pushed but not cat-groomed halfpipe. Cue the old-head comments. But I digress.
This year, Mount Washington was caked. Although the lifts had stopped turning for the season, the top half of the mountain held fresh snow. Our efforts were focused on the bottom. Bootpacking up a few hundred vertical feet, carving walls into a relatively steep, wide, and feature-less groomer, I wondered how we’d get a proper set of banks put up in only a day. The weather played nice, and two dozen diggers in the morning turned into a hundred or so by the afternoon, rolling right into sunset. With the help of a few hours of snowcat assistance, we soon had 20-or-so turns, including, but not limited to, a skate-bowl style drop in turn, a snow-built arch, fast and flowy turns and a transfer turn and tight turns, all punctuated by a sketchy double at the end into a bowl, a small tabletop, and a hip/quarterpipe combo past the finish line just for fun. Consider me impressed, but not totally surprised—the course was emblematic of the DIY-approach that is at the core of boardsports, a meandering creative creation.
It was perfect. The weather wasn’t. Wet snow dominated race day. Yet no one seemed to care. Riders as young as 7-years-old hiked up and took their turn. Waiting in line near the end of the day, speaking to random strangers/new friends, someone asked me how my run went. “I kinda cruised,” I replied. “Not really trying to go fast, just having fun.”
“Me too,” he said with a smile. “This is my first banked slalom and I realized that no one really cares how well you do. We’re just here for a good time.”
I was already tired. He was already tired. We all were. But it was that good kind of tired. Good times tired. Bodies spent on positive vibrations and ready for the next move.
So, we packed it up in a hurry and pointed it towards Tofino, 3.5-hours west across the middle of the Island, through Port Alberni then a long stretch of rugged land, guided by the clear waters of the Kennedy River down to the Pacific Ocean. We passed by a small patch where we’d done habitat restoration at a Triple Plank past. It seemed to have taken hold. A black bear foraged roadside. Wild country, but country touched by industrial activity nonetheless. This winding road to the west coast of the Island exists because of fishing and logging, after all.
On Saturday, clearing weather. Small waves. Headstands and longboards and occasional tail blasts in six-person, 20-minute heats in rapid succession for stage two of the Triple Plank, the surf event at Cox Bay. Then onto the Tuff City skatepark, the oldest skatepark on the Island and a reminder of local roots in tourist-ensconced downtown Tofino. Fast lines in the sunshine. And onto the awards at Tofino Brewing, a silent auction, rock and roll from The Lonely Dougs and an after-after party, even, for those still standing. That wasn’t me. Too old, maybe. Plus, I wanted to surf early Sunday, before restoration work.
Speaking of restoration work: the heartbeat of the Triple Plank, beyond community building, beyond multigenerational board-riding, is fundraising for Redd Fish Restoration Society—this year, around $20,000.
At Wickaninnish High School, just behind the skatepark, I found Marie with a shovel in hand, planting a bush, pulling invasive species alongside about half of the competitors. “We’re here for a contest, but really, I don’t think anyone takes it too seriously, and that’s what we love about it,” she said. “It’s more about coming together and pitching in for a cause and learning, giving back a little bit. Redd Fish has been doing this for 27 years and it’s rewarding to merge their world with ours—to have an excuse to get everyone out here, all these shredders digging and weeding and learning how to directly care for our environment.”
Despite the long weekend, despite the hangovers, Marie’s vision had come to fruition. A few children joined in, digging in the dirt, searching for frogs in a pond, laughing with the older folks. Jessica Hutchinson, the Executive Director of Redd Fish, sat on a log, taking it all in.
“The main goal of Redd Fish is to maintain the watershed in this area,” she said. “Our mandate is research, restoration, education and stewardship. What we have going on here today. Not only do you want to do the work, but you want to teach people how to do the work, how to care for the land. Conservation requires restoration, because humans have had such an impact on our planet that conservation alone isn’t sufficient anymore—we need to go back and undo some of the damage we’ve done.
“Seeing all these like-minded people who love this place, who love to snowboard, want to learn and give back means a lot to us. Hopefully people might learn something, might become a bit more conscious about what it takes to give back. Groups like ours exist all over the world. No matter where you came from, you can do this kind of work in your own backyard.”
And that’s what I learned at the Triple Plank. We don’t need events like this one to give back. They help, they’re fun, they’re a good excuse to gather for a good cause, but there is so much to be done to preserve and rehabilitate the places we live and play. It doesn’t always take a ton of effort. A few dollars, a few hours, a few days in your own backyard can make an impact. Whatever you have to give.
Making a difference, however big or small, starts here, wherever here may be. It reverberates throughout our community. For this long weekend, it was on Vancouver Island, but caring for the land can begin anywhere, at anytime. That realization is the success of the Westcoast Triple Plank.
A huge thank you to Marie-France Roy, Alicia, Claudia, and all the judges, volunteers, and participants, the board builders and all who donated to the silent auction, and of course, the artists and musicians who kept us entertained and documented everything. A big shout to Tofino Brewing Company for providing beverages throughout the event and hosting the awards and Tofino Resort & Marina for the lodging. And of course, to the sponsors who recognize the importance of events like this and do what they can to make it all happen: Yeti, Patagonia, Arbor, Vans, Coal, Slowtide, Mateina, Nibz, Zeal Optics, Relic, Storm, Evo, Antisocial, Blood Wizard, Jones Snowboards, Beaver Wax, Vulcan Bolts, Bones, Gnu, Dakine, Smartwool, and Skull Skates. It’s a lot to list, but it means a lot.
We are grateful to live and play within the unceded territories of the Tla-O-Qui-Aht and K’όmoks Fist Nations and the mountains of the Pentlatch, E’iksan, Sahtloot and Sasitla peoples.