Patrick Salamon’s hand-shaped cedar surfboards are so beautiful you might hesitate to paddle them out into the surf. Although he’s built them to ride, they’re also works of art.

Salamon is the founder of Waterman Surfboards. Working in a shop at his Campbell River home, his boards are often bought by collectors from around the globe just to hang as art installations in their ocean-front villas.

The Campbell River craftsman’s journey to boutique board shaping and life was not exactly conventional. For one, he grew up a farm kid in the flatlands of Saskatchewan, about as far from a surf break as you can get in Canada. Post high school, he scrounged together airfare for Australia, where he got hooked on surfing. Salamon learned how to repair dinged boards to make some money.

After returning to Canada, he became a journeyman plumber and gasfitter. But he continued travelling the world to surf, with a dream of relocating to Vancouver Island. In 2016, he and his wife made the move. They loaded up a trailer, hooked it up to their Ford Bronco and drove to Campbell River. Neither had set foot in the city before. Two weeks later, they bought a house.

Salamon says right away he noticed a lot of cedar canoes and kayaks. He also saw people building cedar fences out of some of the most beautiful wood he’d ever seen.

When his wife landed a good job, he dove into the dual duties of stay-at-home dad and surfboard designer and shaper. He also manages to surf 60 days a year, some of those on the finicky winter wind swell of Vancouver Island’s east coast.

Salaman’s goal is to shape boards that reflect Vancouver Island much more than a generic foam-core surfboard does.

It was two years of perfecting the subtle techniques of building hollow but strong cedar boards to the point where he was comfortable selling them. The closest comparison, he says, is how wooden airplane wings are constructed.

Salaman’s appreciation of cedar shows in his craftsmanship. Besides Instagram posts, word of mouth is his most powerful marketing. And as a one-man show, it doesn’t take many orders to fill out a year.

It was a super stressful couple of days.

Pinky, the humpback whale, was spotted off the west coast on October 7th. She and her infant calf were sticking close to the shallows, and she looked like she was struggling.

According to Sydney Dixon, Pinky was caught up in crab trap lines and dragging an orange float behind her.

Dixon is the research and education director for Strawberry Isle Marine Research Society (SIMRS), a registered charity in Clayoquot Sound. She’s also a zodiac skipper for Jamie’s Whaling Station and was on a zodiac when she first saw the distressed whale and her little calf.

She radioed the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), who came as quick as possible, but they lost sight of Pinky.

SIMRS, Jamie’s, Subtidal Adventures, RCMP and DFO formed a huge search party the next day.

“A big fleet of us went out and spread out over Barkley Sound to try to relocate this whale,” Dixon told Alberni Valley News.

After days of intense searching, they still couldn’t find her.

The team was stressed because Pinky migrates to Hawaii every year, and the whales leave the region quickly when that happens. If Pinky and her calf were left behind, they would have had a tough time surviving the winter.

Folks in the region are attached to Pinky. She’s a big mother whale who shows up every summer, and the calf is her 2021 baby.

Finally, Pinky was spotted again on Friday, October 15th, and rescuers removed all visible crab trap lines.

Dixon was thrilled.

“I felt a lot of relief, a lot of joy and also a lot of pride for the local community,” she said. “It takes a village. There are so many people out there that really care about these animals.”

If you ever see a whale in distress, you can call DFO’s marine mammal response network at 1-800-465-4336. Then, stay with the animal if you can until help arrives.

And don’t try to take off fishing lines yourself!

You could be “signing that whale’s death certificate,” Dixon said. But, if you don’t get all the gear off the whale, “it would be much, much, harder for professionals to then relocate that whale and identify it as an entangled individual.”

She also hopes that this is a reminder to keep track of all your fishing gear. Fishing is super important in the area, but lost gear can be a real problem for whales.

Roughly 50% of BC’s humpbacks have scars from being caught up in fishing lines.

Don’t bother with an umbrella this weekend. You’ll probably get soaked anyway.

Environment Canada has upgraded its weather alert for parts of VanIsle. First, it was a rainfall watch, but now it’s a rainfall warning. And it’s supposed to rain a lot.

A map of Vancouver Island with the predicted rainfall listed over each city.
A bucket of rain is heading for Vancouver Island and the BC south coast. Forecast by SkyTracker / Global News.

WestIsle and Comox Valley will be the wettest places on the island. So, Environment Canada is warning folks in the regions to watch out for overflowing streams and flash floods.

To make matters worse, it’s going to get cold in the mountains. It could snow up there, and when the snow melts, it’ll make flooding more intense.

Emergency services on VanIsle are already pretty stretched, so it will be interesting to see how they handle intense rains. Floods could pop up in a lot of places, and they might happen without any warning.

So why is this happening?

Mark Madryga is a meteorologist for Global News. “A ‘river’ of atmospheric moisture is flowing high above the Pacific Ocean,” he said, “and [it’s] taking aim at BC.”

An atmospheric river is a long, narrow band in the atmosphere that sucks up large amounts of moisture from warm tropical regions. It really is like a river in the sky.

Only when an atmospheric river gets going, it can carry up to 70 times the amount of water flowing through the mouth of the Fraser River.

That, my friends, is a lot of water.

Folks might want to know, is this climate change?

And the answer is not really, but kind of.

Frustrating, right? But here’s why.

Atmospheric rivers have always been a thing, you know? They’re part of the global water cycle, and they’re always kind of flowing around the planet.

With climate change, we might even get fewer atmospheric rivers coming our way. But the ones we do get will be doozies. They’ll be wider, and they’ll carry even more water.

And that kind of rain will test everything from our storm drains to flood rescue plans.

So we can’t point to this one atmospheric river and declare, “that’s climate change.” But we can stand in the rain this weekend and say, “this is what climate change feels like.”

It was a tough year for salmon on the Tsolum. The heat dome rocked Coho early in the summer, the prolonged drought left salmon with nowhere to go, and low water levels killed pinks in August.

But by the middle of September, the rain came. The rivers filled up a little and gave the pinks some more breathing room—literally.

And it turned out to be a game-changer.

On the afternoons of September 20th and September 26th, volunteers with the Tsolum River Restoration Society walked from the end of Railway Avenue down to the confluence with the Puntledge River. They counted the pinks that were making their way to the headwaters.

And there were so many fish to count! In fact, it was the highest number of pinks ever recorded in the Tsolum River.

Volunteers counted more than 155,000 pinks in the watershed. About 39,000 pinks made it all the way to Headwaters Creek.

It’s pretty spectacular to see so many salmon returning home to spawn. But the fish aren’t totally out of the woods. Climate change and fish farms can still make life difficult for them in the river and out in the ocean.

But it sure is a relief to see a good run this year.

As Carmen Everest Wahl said on the Restoration Society’s post, “Father Charles Brandt would be so pleased.”

No doubt John Horgan cracked a beer and sat down last Friday for the season opener of Big Timber. Consider it the BC Premier’s dirty little secret.

This History Channel series follows Ken Wenstob, owner of Sooke-based Wenstob Timber, and his crew as they blast logging roads and log old-growth trees off steep slopes about 30 km northwest of Port Alberni.

Credit: Google Maps

There’s nothing new here. Big Timber continues in the tradition of other reality TV shows that glorify the macho, nature-conquering pursuits of their mostly male stars.

You’ve seen it before with the Alaskan crab fisherman on Deadliest Catch or gold miners on Yukon Gold.

This time, it’s Wenstob’s crew logging on Klitsa Mountain, which rises above the west end of Sproat Lake just south of the highway between Port Alberni and Tofino.

The timing of the show’s release could not be more ironic, given how Premier Horgan’s thin green veneer is slowly being pealed way.

Despite his election promise, Horgan has failed to act on the 14 recommendations made by the Old Growth Strategic Review, a two-person panel that his government created. Instead, he appointed yet another panel.

While waffling on old growth, Horgan is also quietly overseeing one of the biggest – and most expensive – deployments of police power in Canadian history. All to help one company log old-growth trees in Fairy Creek.

It’s literally in Horgan’s backyard, the riding of Langford-Juan de Fuca, that he represents in the legislature.

Though he likes to talk green, Horgan’s true colours are more Big Timber.

The show’s ridiculous yee haw, get ‘er done dialogue is, not surprisingly, sprinkled liberally with bleeped out F-bombs. That’s just in case viewers need to be persuaded that these heroic lumberjacks are engaged in a courageous and colourful battle with the rugged forests of Vancouver Island.

The choice of Wenstob as the focus of Big Timber fools nobody.

He comes across as a poor imitation of the cigar-chomping Colonel Quaritch who led the assault on the sacred forest in Avatar. Big Timber depicts him as a small-scale logger and owner of one of the last independent sawmills on VanIsle.

But sadly, it’s business as usual on the ground—a bunch of dudes whacking down big trees on steep mountainsides. As a result, the slopes are left prone to future landslides, erosion, and ecological destruction.

Big Timber is meant to be a gritty celebration of hard work in the backwoods of BC.

Instead, it comes off as a cruel parody—an indictment of John Horgan’s failure to show any leadership on old-growth.

Big Timber presents a snapshot of an outdated, whack ’em down-as-fast-we-can model of forestry. It captures it well.

Although it’s showing on the History Channel, unfortunately, the world it depicts is all too real in the present.

Over Thanksgiving weekend, BC Emergency Health Services flew fourteen more people from northern BC to hospitals in Vancouver and on VanIsle.

Health Minister Adrian Dix put it into perspective in his COVID update on Tuesday: “it’s about nine hundred kilometres by air from Dawson Creek to Victoria.”

That’s a sad way to spend a holiday.

That means a total of 55 people have been airlifted away from their homes because the hospitals where they live are too full of other people with COVID.

Of those 55 patients, 43 had COVID. Forty-two of them were not fully vaccinated. The other 12 folks were sick with something else, but they needed to be airlifted far from home to get the care they needed.

Mike Bernier is the MLA for Peace River South. He represents towns Dawson Creek where COVID is spreading like wildfire.

He says doctors in the south are calling him to tell him that their beds are full of people from the north.

The vaccination rates in his riding are pretty low compared to the rest of the province. And the pro-virus protesters are getting up close and personal. They even showed up at his house.

“I’ve been in politics 20 years, so I’m used to being the dartboard,” he told Energetic City, “but it’s become so polarizing, and everybody wants you to take their side.”

Meanwhile, Tofino General Hospital declared a COVID outbreak in its inpatient ward. The emergency department and the rest of the hospital are still open. But when the non-COVID parts of our hospital system have COVID outbreaks, it’s an uncomfortable reminder of how vulnerable we are.

The fourth wave has been the longest, worst one yet on VanIsle.

There is some good news coming, though. Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today that kids as young as five could be getting their COVID vaccines in the next couple of months.

BC’s Get Vaccinated system is now open to register for appointments for five to eleven-year-olds. Parents will be notified as soon as the vaccine is approved and available.

Bronx is a bit scary. But according to a Victoria judge, deep down, he’s a good dog.

Let’s be real, Bronx has done some bad stuff. He’s nervous and needs a lot of training. And he’s really freaking strong.

He has been on death row for months after biting dogs and people in Victoria. The City of Victoria wanted to have him put down because they considered the dog dangerous.

But Judge Adrian Brooks has decided to take Bronx off death row.

Instead, this good dog with a bad past gets to go live with Ken Griffiths, the Comox Valley Dog Whisperer.

Ken Griffiths, known as the Comox Valley Dog Whisperer
Ken Griffiths, the Comox Valley Dog Whisperer, sits with his pack. Photo c/o Facebook.

The court case to decide what would happen to Bronx took ages. The trial was filled with people who love Bronx. And some who thought he was too dangerous to live. People talked. They argued. Some cried. There were even roosters.

Vancouver lawyer Rebeka Breder represented Bronx’s original owner. “The dog gets to live,” she told the Times Colonist.

Bronx’s original owner, Richard Bonora, knew that Bronx needed more care than he could give. Bonora lives on a disability pension and had trouble controlling Bronx’s outbursts. The City of Victoria told Bonora that he needed to keep Bronx in a muzzle, but Bonora ignored them.

Bonora regretted that decision. He knew that he couldn’t keep Bronx, but didn’t think the dog should die for his owner’s mistakes. So he agreed to let the Dog Whisperer adopt him.

But it was still up to the judge to decide that was okay. And ultimately, he did—the judge ruled that Bronx was not an unacceptable risk to the public.

“The judge explained that the city didn’t do enough to try to rehabilitate Bronx,” Breder said, “and that animal control should do a better job in trying to save a dog’s life before jumping to court.”

Here’s hoping Bronx finds a new pack up in Comox. Sometimes a bad dog just needs a good home.

John Horgan may be a Star Trek fan, but there’s no room for him in the federation unless he changes course on old-growth logging.

While the 90-year old Shatner is in the news for being the oldest person to rocket into space, he is best known as the heroic Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise on the original Star Trek.”

The BC Premier is a self-avowed Trekkie. So the criticism from Capt. Kirk probably may cut close to the bone.

“There’s nothing like standing next to a giant ancient cedar to make one recognize how small our place in the universe really is. Some wonders are irreplaceable,” said Shatner, in support of the open-letter initiative first launched in June by the non-profit Canopy. “Premier Horgan, these forests should live long and prosper.”

Shatner is one of more than 200 celebrities, artists, scientists, and indigenous leaders pressuring BC to do more to protect old forests.

Former NASA scientist James Hansen, actor Judi Dench, primatologist Jane Goodall, former federal environment minister Catherine McKenna, and Grand Chief Stewart Phillip are among those who have stood alongside Shatner to shine a spotlight on Horgan’s unwillingness to protect at-risk old-growth forests and change the way BC manages these rare forests.

Environmental groups often call on celebrities to lend their star power to conservation campaigns. Whether or not it makes any real difference on the ground is debatable.

But what this latest effort does show is that the ongoing debacle at Fairy Creek is becoming a national, even international, embarrassment.

Police strong-arming peaceful protesters, RCMP officers pulling off protestors’ medical masks to pepper spray them in the face, reporters denied access, roughed up and arrested.

This kind of police intimidation isn’t supposed to happen in Canada. It’s a far cry from Dudley Do-Right.

And it’s all happening in Premier Horgan’s riding.

Horgan’s response?

Mostly silence.

What happened to his election promise of “immediate interim protection of the most at-risk old-growth to prevent the loss of rare ecosystems?”

Not much.

Oh, Capt. Horgan appointed another panel to study the matter.

Meanwhile, logging of the last stands of rare old-growth in Fairy Creek and throughout the province continues.

Propping up an industry planning for ten more years of old-growth logging is not the future voters asked for when the NDP was elected to a majority in 2020.

So from one Captain to another – it’s time to be a hero and get your ship back on course, Capt. Horgan.

BC’s mandatory vaccine order for long-term care and assisted living workers is now in effect. As of October 12, employees of these facilities must have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine or be off work without pay.

Axing otherwise dedicated staff for refusing to get the jab may put some employers in a difficult position, especially since seniors’ care was already experiencing staffing shortages before the pandemic.

It’ll also be tough on some workers unwilling to get the jab, but that is their personal choice.

Pro-virus protestors and anti-vaxxers may argue that this mandate is an infringement of their human rights. That’s why the BC Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender provided guidance on the issue.

It’s an important read.

Though not legally binding, the Human Rights Commissioner’s guidance helps place mandatory vaccines into the broader context of public good and individual rights.  It also provides insight into how the BC Human Rights Tribunal might treat a complaint from an anti-vaxxer about mandatory vaccines.

Govender established five criteria, and here they are in a nutshell.

1)They must be supported by scientific evidence relevant to the specific context.

2) They must be time-limited and regularly reviewed.

3)They must be proportional to the risks they seek to address.

4)They must be necessary due to the lack of less-intrusive alternatives.

5)They must be respectful of privacy to the extent required by law.

Clearly, requiring mandatory vaccines for people who work with seniors in care facilities, our most vulnerable citizens, easily meets the standard set by the Human Rights commissioner. Thousands of seniors have died in care homes across Canada since this pandemic started.

Yeah, this is uncomfortable public policy, and some people may think it invades their personal rights. But we’re sorry, it’s time to take one for the team.

Think about it. A family wanting to visit their elderly loved ones in care facilities has had to show proof of vaccination for months now. So wouldn’t it be absurd to continue permitting unvaccinated staff to care for the same people?

A decade ago, Angie Farquharson and Evan Fair were working at Mount Washington, living in an oceanfront rental on Kin Beach, and ready for a change. It was either move to a different ski hill or do a 180 and try something new.

Around that same time, Fair, an avid snowboarder, wondered what it would be like to design and build his own snowboard.

Not long after, they spotted a Craigslist ad for a second-hand snowboard press.

Call it a stroke of good timing.

Two days later, they drove to Vancouver to buy the press, and Kindred Snowboards was born.

The couple would make a good business team. Fair is comfortable around tools, having worked construction in the off-season. Farquharson is a talented graphic artist and, with her experience in ski resort marketing, also had a natural flair for promotion. The rest is history.

Today Kindred makes roughly 250 boards annually from a small shop behind their home on the North Island Highway. They relocated to Merville after quickly outgrowing their rental on Kin Beach (it’s where the name Kindred came from).

Customers find them mainly through word-of-mouth. They come from across North America, Europe and as far away as Australia and Japan.

Fair does the heavy lifting, building yellow cedar and Douglas fir cores out of wood sourced from local sawmills.

Farquharson designs the top sheets with marquetry, a technique of using wood veneers to create striking stylized patterns. She credits social media and great support from ambassadors in the guiding and snow sports world for helping to build their brand.

So far, the small company employs one other person at peak production times. But they will need to bring on more help if they keep growing and reach their target of selling between 700 and 800 skis and snowboards annually.