Hang loose: Haida Gwaii surf festival warms to beach yoga

Surfing and yoga are a natural fit, says Michael McQuade, organizer of the eight annual Expression Session surfing festival.

Chris Ashurst rides a wave at the Expression Session. Haida Gwaii's annual surfing festival returns to the Hiellen River mouth at 9 a.m. on Saturday

Surfers who stretch mainly by squirming into wetsuits will find a new level of limber at this year’s Expression Session: yoga on the beach.

Surfing and yoga are a natural fit, says Michael McQuade, owner of North Beach Surf Shop and organizer of the eighth annual Haida Gwaii surfing festival.

“I usually do one sun salutation and then run into the water that’s about it,” he said, laughing.

Led by instructor Brogan Kiss at the mouth of the Hiellen River, the morning yoga session starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12 will follow a Friday open-mic night at Masset’s Mile Zero Pub, and lead into the main event a day of North Beach surfing with prizes chosen by popular vote.

“People can wear wetsuits or yoga pants, bring their mats or whatever they want and have a nice morning stretch before the high tide at 11:30,” said McQuade, who tries to time Expression Session with full-moon tides for a better chance of surf.

“Knock on wood, but it’s usually been one of the best surf days of the year,” he said.

“Once again, we’re hoping the wave gods produce.”

Everyone who registers for the Expression Session will get a limited-run T-shirt by Rika, a Vancouver designer, plus a shot at prizes that include surf gear from Xcel, QuickSilver, and the Surf Shop, not to mention works by local Haida Gwaii artists.

This year, members of Mount Moresby Adventure Camp will be dishing out snacks, drinks, and lunch from the ‘Expression Session Concession,’ with all proceeds going toward the camp.

McQuade said more advanced surfers will be surfing the mouth of the Hiellen River, and everyone else is asked to surf a bit farther down the beach for safety.

It’s not a contest, but there will be a ballot box on the beach where anyone can nominate surfers (and their pets) for awards like Wave of the Day, Best Costume, Biggest Stoke, and Top Dog.

Going into year eight, McQuade said he is stoked at what an all-islands event Expression Session has become.

Over 500 people have turned out for the surf season kick-off in years past, and by August this year all the Hiellen cabins were booked for Expression Session weekend.

“It feels like a vibrant village site, with hundreds of people walking around, lots of kids and families,” said McQuade.

“It’s a really positive vibe.”

Surfers can register for the Expression Session at the Mile Zero open-mic night, at the festival itself, or on the Haida Gwaii Recreation website. Registration is $40, and includes a T-shirt and chance to win prizes.

The day before it all gets underway, the North Beach Surf Shop will hold a soft opening of its new store at 1690 Orr Street in Masset, beside Fields.