Originally published on SBCSurf.com

It’s Time to Get Weird

West Coast Weird Off this Saturday on North Chesterman Beach, Tofino. September 24, 2016.

By Drew Penner

SBC Surf Contributor

The West Coast Weird-Off is the anti-contest we need and represents an important milestone in the development of one of Canada’s most exciting nascent surf companies. In labouring to launch a unique surf event – tentatively set as a one-day shindig at North Chesterman beach Sat. Sept 24 – Robert Fiorella, Jaime Ivars Hewitt and Jordie Marrison, the founders of Cold Feet Club, have taken their burgeoning brand to a whole new level.

Just don’t expect them to take any of this too seriously.

“The goal is just to get as many people to the beach as possible,” said 22-year-old Fiorella about what he calls an anti-contest while hanging out at Rhino Coffee House on Tofino’s main strip. “I’ve always been really against contests.”

Everything about the Weird-Off has been calculated to highlight people whose style or ability level might not fit into the limited scope of the more traditional elite-focused contests, from the four categories (longboarding, alternative surf craft, soft tops with costumes and anything but a board) to the judging method (“It’s who can laugh the hardest,” Fiorella said with a wry smile, adding they reserve the right to name category winners 1,000% arbitrarily).

Prizes include skydiving, a fishing charter adventure, wetsuits, photoshoots, board repairs and dinner dates – basically something for everyone.

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It doesn’t take a genius to figure out these guys just want Tofino’s surf community to have a blast as the long-haul summer slog of servicing the tourism industry draws to a close.

But it’s also a cool new extension of their Cold Feet Club brand, which has started taking root over recent months.

The most exciting time for a brand can be those moments at the very beginning of its lifespan, where the direction it will head remains a decision for future swells. So it is with Cold Feet Club. Even the name itself manages to simultaneously tap into the physical and mental challenges faced by Vancouver Island surfers.

“It comes from a whole philosophy,” said Ivars Hewitt, when asked what Cold Feet Club represents. “It’s about riding the right board for the right wave.”

Fiorella chimes in with a bit of honesty.

“We just think it sounds cool,” he said. “We’re still trying to find what it is.”

So many surf enterprises start out with the profit-motive center stage, and maybe it’s only fair to expect that from a business. But it’s not like you get a “Silicon Valley North” vibe when Fiorella and Ivars Hewitt talk about their startup. Even though we’re discussing brands and marketing and logos, it’s the sheer excitement about giving friends (and not-yet-friends) who surf something to embrace as an emblem, that shows through above all else.

That can only be expected when you look at where these guys came from.

Fiorella first arrived on the shores of Vancouver Island as part of a 21-day high school kayaking trip. The teen from Ontario’s Niagara region was awestruck by the gargantuan trees, monumental oceanic expanses and sheer awesomeness of the waves, as he took a rugged adventure to Nootka Island.

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“It was like the surfing and camping right at the beach experience,” he said, describing the main elements of the journey as surfing, fires, and food. “That’s all we did all day – instead of rocking up to the beach in a car. I didn’t know at the time what a rarity that was.”

For Fiorella, surfing has never been about tracking World Surf League stats meticulously or attempting to edge out another surfer on a sick wave via cutthroat tactics. He started Cold Feet Club as a brand for fellow wave enthusiasts to take on as their own.

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Ivars Hewitt, 28, his partner in crime in Cold Feet Club (alongside Jordie Morrison who does a lot of the behind-the-scenes business stuff and brings a wealth of surf knowledge to the table), is fully on board with the fun-over-everything mentality.

An import from Valencia, on Spain’s East Coast, his perspective was shaped by the Mediterranean.

“I started surfing in Spain,” he said, looking back on his early surf days. “In the Mediterranean, there’s a level of camaraderie. There was only 12 of us in my town that surf. So you can bet when there were waves we were all out there.”

While surfers there are blessed with toasty 18-20 degree Celsius waves, they are often plagued by a lack of them.

They’d wait two to three weeks at a time for anything rideable. And when they finally got some solid swell it might only stick around for a week.

“It’s very frustrating to learn to surf there,” he said. “You just really appreciate any sort of waves.”

These lessons have served him well in Tofino, where he’s able to approach fickle summer conditions and challenging winter waves with the right outlook.

One day Ivars Hewitt, who spent much of his teenage years in Vancouver, tagged along with some friends on a trip to Sombrio. He was hooked.

“I can’t believe you can surf here,” he thought, when he was immersed for the first time in a landscape filled with eagles flying overhead, whales spouting and sea lions playing.

He loved the remoteness of what surfing is all about on Vancouver Island.

“Out here it’s the solitude I’m attracted to,” he said.

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He met Fiorella while working at Rhino one summer. They became housemates, and later, co-conspirators in the launch of Cold Feet Club.

Their foray into capturing the essence of the Tofino-Ucluelet surf experience in brand format represents the crew attempting to create something the everyday surfer can relate to.

As much as they both have a deep affinity for the remote aspect of West Coast surf life, it’s inclusiveness that’s at the heart of the brand.

“It’s definitely not a club,” Fiorella said. “People keep asking how they can join.

“If you like surfing you’re in the club. If you like having fun, you’re in the club.”

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They’ve carried this mantra into their formula for the West Coast Weird-Off. Events like the Rip Curl Pro and Queen of the Peak have their place, they note. But the Cold Feet Club crew saw a space they could step into with a completely unique contest.

“This is just kinda like for that average Joe that’s having fun, just out there goofing around,” Fiorella said.

To keep things within reach of basically anyone, they’re charging just $30 per category or $40 to enter all four.

But, they warn, “no narcs” allowed.

Sam Widder, who they commissioned to create the poster for the event, hit the nail on the head with his psychedelic vibration-inspired imagery.

He took his cues from retro Roskopp and Jim Phillips work and whipped up a catchy design to rope in locals to the Cold Feet Club-curated event.

And it’s been working.

You can already hear the buzz growing around town. From the CFC stickers popping up in parking lots to service industry professional chatter about the possibility of entering a surf contest (something that might have seemed out of reach just a few short weeks ago), it’s all so fresh and interesting.

There’s a real need to be met and the Cold Feet Club crew decided to step up and deliver the goods.

If you have something to say about the West Coast Weird-Off or anything else the Cold Feet Club is up to, please write – yes, you guessed it, by snail mail at Cold Feet Club, Box 1174, Tofino, B.C. V0R2Z0. Or as Ivars Hewitt puts it, “Now accepting hate mail and postcards”.

To enter the Weird-Off bring your 30 or 40 bones to Storm Surf Shop.

Spots are limited.

And keep your ear to the ground because there may just be a sick pre-party going down the day before.

You’ve been warned.

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