A pair of surfer dudes from the land of Endless Summer recently conquered an epic wave in the land of Endless Winter, helping to turn a small Canadian city into a new surfing hotspot.
Colin Whitbread and JJ Wessels of Southern California set a new North American record for longest wave ever surfed when they rode a tidal bore on the Petitcodiac River in Moncton, New Brunswick. They rode a single wave approximately 10 miles. In all they surfed over 20 miles up the river. It took them two and a half hours -- the longest ride of their lives.
Since their record-breaking ride in July, the Petitcodiac River has attracted international attention and surfers from as far away as Norway have come to experience the tidal bore. Suddenly chilly Moncton has become a hot spot for surfing.
It's a far cry from Malibu, where each wave, packed with surfers, looks like rush hour on a Southern California freeway.
"When you're the only people on a river, surrounded by yourself for two and half hours, it's a different story," Wessels said.
New Brunswick lies just beyond Maine on Canada's east coast. The Petitcodiac River, flowing south to the Bay of Fundy, is home to some of the highest tides in the world.
Twice a day, at high tide, the bay spills back into the mouth of the river against the current, creating a monstrous wave that shoots back up the river for miles. That wave is called a tidal bore, a phenomenon that happens in only a few places on Earth.
"Back in the day, it would sweep boats away," Whitbread said. "Then in the '60s they built this dam and it stopped the flow and the river turned into a stream that you could literally throw a rock across."
The tidal bore had all but disappeared until three years ago, when New Brunswick opened the flood gates, hoping to bring the river back.
Because of the dam, the Petitcodiac became shallow, clogged with silt and polluted. The water is thick and brown, prompting some to call it "a chocolate river." The locals have tended to avoid it, thinking the water is toxic.
"People have lived there for 60 years and didn't put a toe in it," Whitbread said.
So when these two California surfers showed up at the Canadian border, they said the customs officials were skeptical.
"We pull up and they look at us like what is on the top of your car?" Wessels said.
"Then they look at our passports and, 'where are you going?' 'We're going to go surf a river wave in Canada.' 'Seriously boys what are you going to go do? Don't lie to me.' 'I'm telling you we're going to go surf this river wave,'" Whitbread said.
After driving all night, the two arrived just in time for the tidal bore. Locals gathered along the banks to watch them pull off the longest ride of their lives.
"For us it was priceless," said Ben Champoux, the local tourism director.
Although the local fire chief fretted about the danger, the city has seen a surge of international interest in surfing the bore.
Moncton will never be Malibu, but that's kind of the point. To this day, Whitbread and Wessels maintain their bragging rights.
"We equated it to like Duke Kahanamoku was the guy who brought surfing to California and brought surfing to the world and how people must have seen him riding waves," Whitbread said. "It must have been the same thing for some of these Canadians who had never seen surfing in their lives."
They conceded that the Beach Boys may have to write some new lyrics for this wave on the top of the world.