A treasure on Vancouver Island
Located in Central Vancouver Island, Territory of the Ditidaht First Nation, Nitinat is a 23km long fjord (salted water). The thermal wind is very predictable: it picks up around 11 am and dies around 5 or 6 pm during summertime. Usually, 20-30 knots every day, unless it is raining or there is rain in the forecast. I recommend asking the locals how to read the forecast. What I love so much about it is the very steady wind!
This rustic kite spot is kept untouched by the locals and the kitesurfing community. There are no restaurants, no cell phone coverage, and no internet access. Instead, you will find old giant trees, rustic camping, and fire pits. There is slow and expensive 30-min internet access at the gas station, offered by the first nations (update from 2019 - there is internet at the campground - can pay daily pass). Don’t rely on it as it doesn’t work most of the time. Basically, each kiting day ends up with drinks around a campfire with friends and music.
The windy season runs from May to August. The water is warm-ish, and a wetsuit is usually needed. I have used a 2mm shorty and a 5-4mm wetsuit there. 2017 was particularly cold, even during the day. If you find a camping spot close to the beach, it is colder and can make it hard to dry your wetsuit.
Photo Christopher Curran
The island is home of the Ocean Rodeo head office. The owner’s son, Reece Myerscough, is a real strapless prodigy competing at the international level. Each summer, he spends time at Nitinat and brings the buzz of freestyle strapless riding. Mark Bavis, co-owner of Elevation Kiteboarding, is also a strapless freestyle magician. He is very spectacular with his own skim boards of his own design. Reece and Mark give an awesome show for the crowd.
Windfest competition, demo, and music festival is an annual event organized by local riders on Vancouver Island. It also includes the Canadian Twin Tip racing championship. This is a 100% volunteers run event. If you plan to attend the event, make sure to arrive some days in advance to secure your campsite. It gets quite crowded during the event.
How to get to Nitinat?
Well, this is where it gets a little bit tricky! It takes about 3h from Nanaimo, and 3.5h from Victoria by car. Bring spare tires for the logging roads. There are tons of potholes, and the path to get there isn’t well indicated. I suggest downloading a map or following Elevation Kiteboarding’s instructions. If you have a problem, don’t rely on a quick phone call (no internet or cell phone coverage).
The campsite is managed by the First Nations. If you are lucky, you might be able to get a spot directly on the lake. The site offers picnic tables and fire pits. The camping fee is $18/night if you are on the lakeside. There are some fire bans during summertime – fines if you don’t observe them. Everything is cash only. The campsite has no disposal services, no running water or power.
There are no restaurants or real grocery stores except at the gas station where you will only find chips, Gatorade, cans of beans, and non-healthy cereals. The two-hour trip to the closest grocery store on bumpy roads is a real pain.
Nitinat is awesome and the vibe is quite something there! I truly enjoy it even if the drive to get there is challenging. It is good to stay longer just to make the drive worth it. Go get some and visit the Canadian West Coast!