The Outer Banks: Skookum Narrows BC

Ever the purveyor of excellent adventure content, we have a double bill from Brian Grubb this issue. One from above ground, and one from far below. First up, we’re off to some sketchy river rapids in wild British Columbia…

Words: Brian Grubb
Photos: Chris Fregosi

After our adventure down to Brazil to the Pororoca, we had been looking at some other interesting waves that hadn’t been foiled yet. I’d seen a video of the Skook in the springtime and it looked like it was deep enough to get a foil in there. What I didn’t see in that video was the rapids and whirlpools behind the wave!

The Skook mission came up pretty short notice. I got a call from Matt about a week before that the tides were going to be good. I flew up to Seattle to link up with the crew and drive up the rest of the way to BC.

The first day there we dropped the ski in and went to the narrows on the slack tide. It was totally flat but as the time went on the incoming tide increased in strength and we started to see the wave beginning to work. I got the first go at it. It wasn’t big yet so the pocket was small and I had to make tight turns up on the face but it was working! I was just wearing an impact vest at first and after one trip through the rapids I knew I needed more flotation. I wore a kayak life vest the rest of the trip. It was scary how much water is moving through there and wants to pull you under. Had to be quick on the ski to recover the rider and then get the board after it washed through the rapids. We got the rescues pretty dialed by day two but Matt and I both got pulled into some scary whirlpools.

Since it’s a tidal wave it’s always changing. When we were there, it was a 14ft tide. We would have to start every ride in an eddy of calm water behind an island and then tow over to the wave. It was a challenge to just get to the wave because of how much turbulence there was in the water. When the wave was maxing out there was lots of room to foil. We were mostly on the second wave and could fade out to the shoulder to setup turns and runs into the inside waves. This is a famous kayak wave, but it actually worked perfect for everyone. They were on the first wave that was mostly whitewater and we were on the second and third cleaner waves mostly, so we could all ride at the same time. The turbulence was pretty intense but once in a while you would get a patch of smooth water coming into the zone and then you could relax a bit and rip some turns.

It was definitely a cool feeling to look over at the shore and see that we weren’t moving. The water was flowing at the perfect speed to just stay in one place. Matt and I both rode the Lift 150v2 / 20 Carve with the fuse extension the first day and then I switched to the 100v2 / 20 Carve for the last two days. For me the 100 was perfect. I could do tight turns up on the face and it handled the rough water really well. On the third day we were whipping in from really far away and just coasting across the current into the wave. That was really fun!

The Skook is a fun foil wave for sure, but very dangerous. I wouldn’t want to be in there on a ski without a collar and all the proper safety gear and flotation. We learned a lot over the three days we were there and got some incredible rides, but it’s a deadly wave and you have to be careful in that zone.

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