Q+A with Michael Darling

Meet Michael Darling, our newest Creator & Innovator from Canada. We recently checked in with him to hear about the everydays of surfing in British Columbia and see what he's been up to since finishing school.

Get to know him below & check out his most recent edit here.

Introduce yourself. Name, age, place of residence, occupation?
My name is Michael Darling, I live in Tofino, British Columbia, Canada, and I am 25 years old. I am a self-employed, mechanical engineer that owns a small business creating a range of custom products for the surrounding towns on the west coast of Vancouver Island.

What's it like being a surfer based in Canada?
I love surfing in Canada. I love travelling, don’t get me wrong, but I really love my home. Vancouver Island, in my biased opinion, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Packing up the truck or boat full of gear in search of waves amongst the rain-forest, creatures, and temperamental weather is something you can’t find anywhere else in the world. It may be cold, rainy, and fickle, but when the conditions line up it’s a pretty magical place to be.

We get pretty lucky on the west coast of Canada as the winters don’t get nearly as cold as the east coast. The wetsuits have improved so much since I was a kid that as long as you are ok with having numb limbs after a couple hours on the coldest days, it really isn’t that bad of an experience.

Was it hard to get into surfing in such a cold area that requires thick hooded suits, gloves, booties, etc.?
When I first got into surfing, when I was about 7-8 years old, it was definitely freezing on the best days. My parents would stack a couple wetsuits on top of each other and send my brother and I out in the middle of the winter. It wasn’t the most ideal situation for learning how to surf, but it was still worth it. Nowadays, the wetsuit technology has improved to the point where you stay warm for hours, even on the coldest days. I was just recently on a trip to the east coast of Canada and it's so cool to see a community of surfers who face the freezing elements (-20 degrees Celsius / -4 Fahrenheit) made accessible by the new wetsuit tech.

What’s your everyday home break?
My everyday home-break is a little beach break called Cox Bay. It’s about 10 minutes away from my house and is one of the more consistent beaches in our area. It may not offer the most perfect waves in the world, but there is always something to ride and can often get pretty darn fun.

Have you done any experimentation with riding more alternative shapes? Are there breaks nearby that lend themselves to longboards, fishes, etc. more so than shortboards?
Absolutely! I grew up mostly riding short-boards but more recently have begun to explore more alternative shapes. I recently got a 5’7 twin fin from Aftanas Surfboards, the local shaper here in Tofino. It's the first twinny I’ve owned and I really love it on clean, softer days. I’ve also got a long board on the way for the summer months as it tends to get a little smaller on the coast with the odd little reef break providing some summer time fun.

The winter months in Tofino are pretty stormy and don’t always offer the cleanest conditions. That being said, the southern end of Vancouver Island can sometimes have some really fun waves that would be fun for any type of craft depending on the day.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen in the Canadian waters? Any killer whale sightings?
Haha, ok so, my Dad is a whale biologist, so I have been fortunate enough to see some pretty incredible things. That being said, there was one day where everything seemed to come together. There was a pod of Orcas teaching their young how to hunt in a nearby sound. We were all surfing a reef while they moved into the bay. We noticed a bunch of splashing further out and suddenly a sea lion was punted about 20 feet into the air by one of the orcas. We all looked at each other in shock and wondered if they would be coming closer to shore. The pack of about 20 sea lions began swimming and jumping towards the break. At this point all of us started to scramble to get into shore as we knew what would be following the pack of terrified sea lions. It was honestly one of the most impressive things I have ever seen, watching a pod of killer whales cruise right through the line up chasing that group of sea lions. Since that day, I haven't seen anything quite that crazy.

You finished school with a Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering. What have you been up to since?
Since graduating, I have been working for myself using my digital design and manufacturing knowledge to create products for local businesses in Tofino and the surrounding towns. I have always had a passion for design and have been fortunate enough to work on projects with multiple entrepreneurs up and down the coast. I have always wanted to work for myself not only to search for waves when they are around, but also to take advantage of the creative juices when they are most present. The town of Tofino is full of creatives that all want to share their craft. The last year and a half has been so inspiring and I am really grateful to have the support of people in town to be able to surf and create everyday.

What inspires you the most?
That's a tough question. It’s hard to narrow it down to one thing, but if I had to, it would probably be the town of Tofino. I have never been anywhere that is so unconditionally supportive. There are so many people going in different creative directions with their businesses and hobbies and you can feel the inspiration in the air. Maybe it’s because of the landscape and surroundings, or maybe it’s the fact that you can surf year round, but it's an amazing place to be if you want to start your own business or focus on creativity. I could go on and on, but it is so cool to be around your best friends all doing amazing things. From photography to surfing, pottery to metalwork, or music to the culinary arts, it’s a very inspiring place to be.

Dream trip – Go.
At this moment, with spring just around the corner, I would say a dream trip would be to camp for a few weeks about 3 hours north of here. It's so beautiful and serene with pumping waves if the conditions line up. It’s one of my favourite things, surfing insane waves, at home, with just your best friends around. Nothing beats a trip like that at home.

Iceland or Indo?
Hmm, I would have to say Iceland. It may be absolutely frigid, but it would be so rewarding facing the elements in search of waves with not a soul around. I’ve heard it gets pretty sick on the right day too!

Instagram / @aquajunkie
Photography: Marcus Paladino

Watch Michael Darling in Social Distance