The Wave (Sombrio Beach - November 9th, 2002)

We headed out one early morning, assuming we'd venture into Carmanah-Walbran for a quick day-hike, from the Port Renfrew side. Myself, Matt, Jon, and Warren all piled into my beasty old Ford. My truck was running on propane at the time; we filled up in Sooke. Heading north, along the west coast of the island, we followed the winding road past the many beaches along the Juan de Fuca Trail to Port Renfrew. Evaluating the fuel level on my truck, and the absence of a propane station (or any gas station) in Port Renfrew, we realized we couldn't trek through the backroads and arrive at Carmanah-Walbran and make it home.

"Let's go to Botanical and look at the map". Off we go to Botanical Beach, just a few minutes away. We wandered down to the shore, and climbed onto the rocks. Hopping from rock to rock, we easily make it to an island, nicely covered with trees and bushes. A few big rocks about 100 meters off-shore were taking a beating from some huge waves. We hop back along the rocks, noticing that the tide is starting to come in; most of us make it back to shore without getting wet, but Warren ends up with a wet boot -- but he doesn't care. Back to the truck, and we decide to just wing it -- off to the next beach.

We arrive at Sombrio beach and hike down to the beach. The sun was shining, and we had an all-around good time. Jon keeps running up and down the beach, dancing with the waves; he's giggling big time -- too much sun? Anyhow, we keep walking south along the beach, right to the end where some caves are. There's nothing to see beyond the caves, so we turn around a head back. The sand is dry, and there's 10 meters of sand between the water and the cliffs -- we stand in between. The four of us are chattering away, when a wave slightly bigger than normal crashes down like all the rest -- but this one is different. It starts to flow in, so instinctively we all step back, towards the smooth cliff. At first I didn't notice that the cliff with smooth, and there wasn't any vegetation nearby. Suddenly all four of us were at the cliff, standing together thinking "oh shit". Nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide. The wave rushes in up to our waists, and out we go. Suddenly i'm on my stomach getting pulled across the sand on a cushion of water. Thousands of pebbles are grinding together as the water flows out. I claw at the sand, trying to grab hold of something, anything. The next wave comes -- I curl up in a ball and tumble through the waves. A second wave throws me again.

Before I know it, i'm standing up -- dazed, with my boots full of water. Damn it's cold! I see Warren in a tree and Jon just below him. What a great idea! I run as best I can (with my waterlogged boots) towards them. Up the tree -- higher than Warren. Where's Matt? -- oh shit... there he is... Maaaaattt!!! He's just standing there... completely dazed. He throws his backpack in the water and runs our way. Warren tells us that he nearly landed in the tree we're now in -- he was on top of the water, flowing in and grabbed hold of the tree; the bad news, is his knee is a bit sore, as the tree is against the rocks and he bashed it when flowing in. Jon and Matt are unscathed; a few removed scabs from biking are all. I realize my head is bleeding a bit, and my back is sore; it looks really bad, as blood is streaming down my face, but it isn't. Decidedly, it's time to head home. We trek back down the beach, until we reach a point where the rock comes out a bit; the waves come up to meet it. This wasn't such a big deal when we met it the first time... now it's a bit different. We're all terrified... let's try to climb over it... Into the trees, following a path. It doesn't go anywhere, and we're in no shape to bushwack. We head back down to the beach. Jon and Matt show up at the right time, and walk across. Warren and I are behind and freeze in horror, trying to guess the frequency of waves, and the best time to run. Now or never... run! I dart across, Warren is just behind. That wasn't so bad... we're just paranoid and in shock.

We head back along the beach, which never seems to end. The signs warning of rogue waves, which we promptly ignored, mock us. Warren has well-developed limp, so he gets a brief piggyback, followed by 2 shoulders instead. We make it back to the truck, dress our wounds, and drive back to Victoria. The Tragically Hip's "Nautical Disaster" comes up on my mix CD -- next track please. Warren and I head to Royal Jubilee, and get in the ER queue. Warren finally gets in (after 2 hours). 30 minutes later i'm next to him, getting my back cleaned up (50% roadrash), and a finger x-ray. Warren ends up getting some minor knee surgery, and a lot of morphine. In the end, we were all a bit wiser.

Moral of the story: READ THE DAMN SIGNS.