British Columbia·Video

Reckless jet skiers endanger surfers in Tofino

Video showing jet skiers launching their watercraft more than three metres into the air at a crowded beach in Tofino has residents outraged.

Video of jet skiers jumping waves and losing control of their watercraft has Tofino residents worried

Waves like this one in Tofino, B.C., are attracting not just surfers, but jet skiers as well. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Residents in Tofino say they're shocked by a video of two men using jet skis to jump waves at crowded North Chesterman Beach.

Shannon Brown recorded the video on June 12. He's lived in the community for more than a decade, is a surf instructor and a coach for the national surf team.

"It's unsafe and they were way too close to people," said Brown. "If you have a jet ski landing on top of you from 10, 15 feet, you're sending someone to the hospital, if not worse."

'This is crazy'

Brown says it's not uncommon for people to use jet skis in the waters around Tofino but never that close to other people.

"On a jet ski things happen so fast. You are flying around on those things and it's just one moment, one lapse in concentration and somebody will pay for it," he said.

Watch as a jet skier gets close to surfers in Tofino:

Joy riders on jet skis recklessly surf the waves at North Chesterman beach near Tofino on June 12, 2020. 0:47

North Chesterman Beach is a common spot for surf schools to take tourists learning the sport. Brown says this means that many of the people in the water were likely novices with limited spatial awareness.

Tiffany Olsen is the general manager of Surf Sisters surf school. She was gobsmacked to see the video of reckless jet skiers so close to surfers.

"This is crazy, I have never seen anything like that on our beaches," she said. "If that happened around my surf lesson I would not put up with that."

Who makes the rules?

That sentiment was echoed by Tofino's mayor, Josie Osborne. She said the video was disconcerting and sparked a conversation about who was responsible for setting rules and how residents can best respond in a situation like this.

"While the municipality can prohibit the launching of motorized vessels from the beach, we don't regulate the surf zone. The best thing to do if you see something unsafe is call 911," she said.

Transport Canada guidelines for the use of jet skis and other personal watercraft include recommendations to avoid high speeds near shore and to avoid swimmers and surfers. 

In a statement, a spokesperson says enforcement agencies like the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) fisheries officers, and British Columbia conservation officers can issue fines up to $575 to the operator for careless operation or speeding.

"Jet skiers jumping waves close to shore near surfers or swimmers is both unsafe and illegal. Transport Canada reminds all boaters to operate their vessels safely, in accordance with the law and the principles of safe boating practices," the statement read.

Brown remains worried. He says one week after filming the reckless jet skiers, he saw another pair come in close to shore and do the same thing.

"It starts making you worry you're in for a crazy summer," said Brown.