Fred Hamilton cresting a wave at Sombrio Beach.

Boarders board a two-hour super bore

Sooke resident Fred Hamilton surfs a 29 km bore, then co-coordinates a record-breaking ride.

Sooke surfers are an adventurous lot, and they sure do get around.

Fred Hamilton, who recently strayed from Sooke to find work in Halifax, co-coordinated a group of surfers who set out to break a boarding record: a 29 kilometre, two hour surf board tour on the Petitcodiac River, which is located in south-eastern New Brunswick. Hamilton, along with fellow surfer Yassine Oulihal, got this grand event off the ground.

“I was actually back in Halifax on ship for the last six weeks and my friend Yazzy and I decided to pull the trigger on this long term project we’d been toying with for the last 10 years,” writes Hamilton in correspondence with the Sooke News Mirror.

“We went up on reconnaissance mission to scope it out and actually surfed it before all the media hype, just the two of us, down river from Moncton where no one could see us. Our goal was to return to surf this river time and again in the future on days where the ocean was flat.”

Together, Hamilton and Yazzy got the surfers involved, and before they knew it, the event had turned into a media frenzy.

“A report I requested confirmed that (the) story was covered in the Canadian media 172 times this week (74 times on national TV; 58 in news websites; 20 articles in national daily newspapers, etc.), and the story was viewed (or read) by 22,534,250 Canadians (we have 34 million people living in Canada!),” said Hamilton. “This is just unbelievable!”

Having already surfed the bore on the earlier reconnaissance mission earlier, Hamilton decided to put his talents to use on the Sea-doo.

“As much as I would have liked to have been the one surfing it the whole way, we needed my skills on the Sea-doo for safety on the first days, picking surfers up, jumping ahead of the bore and putting them back into the wave. Had we had more Sea-doos and more trained operators, things would have been different.”

According to the city of Moncton’s media monitoring site, this puts Hamilton and Oulihal among the first surfers to ride the Petitcodiac River.

The Petitcodiac River has a unique tidal bore, which is a tidal phenomenon where the leading edge of an incoming tide forms a wave that travels up a river. Recent restoration of the river (it was dammed in the 1960’s) has caused this tidal bore to return. At one point, before the damming, it could reached a wave of two metres.

Hamilton enriches the history lesson: “The installation of a causeway … essentially dammed the river, creating a lake above it and killing the river below it. Over time, the tidal bore almost disappeared, and was nicknamed the ‘total bore.’ David Suzuki and other prominent environmentalists have covered the tragedy and pollution concerns over the years and this river became a sore spot for New Brunswick and particularly Moncton.”

Since 2010, the river has been allowed to flow agaon. And slowly — but much quicker than the anticipated 20 years — the bore is returning to the Petitcodiac River.

Bores occur in only a few locations worldwide. The wave grows during a full or new moon.

Thanks to the efforts of Hamilton and Yazzie, along with the four surfers who rode the wave under media scrutiny on July 23, Moncton may well become a new surfing destination.

Hamilton references a letter he received from Ben Champoux, the Moncton Director of Tourism, following the event.

“This week, you guys brought the river back to life, you gave the river back its soul, and gave our people back their pride!   Simply put, you changed the course of history for our community!”

More than 1,000 people lined the shores near Moncton to watch.

A video of the surf is available to watch at http://youtu.be/lYPPuzcncBw

The next super bore on this river is expected to occur in August, 2014. When asked if he plans to surf it, Hamilton responds, “By August 2014, it will be too crowded for my liking! I’ll be moving on to the next project….”

We’ll be watching.