Oregon has the Columbia Gorge, Squamish has the Spit. Although not as well known, the Squamish Spit is the launch pad for windsurfers, who rely on its predictable wind, known as a ‘squamish,’ which blows each afternoon. So strong is the force of the breeze that carries across Howe Sound that unwary windsurfers in the waters off the spit often can’t right themselves if they get dunked. An emergency rescue service is on standby to pluck such hapless types from the water. And standing on the windsurfing spit on a sunny summer day it is not difficult to imagine why, as one strains just to stand in the consistent 40 knot gust which can top 70 knots. The spit is a long breakwater located at the mouth of the Squamish River.
On busy summer weekends, there can be more than a hundred cars parked here. At the very end of the spit is the windsurfer launch area; you can drive to a drop-off point beside it, unload your board, then park. To find your way to the spit, turn west off Hwy 99 on Cleveland, then north on Buckley, which blends into Government Road. The gravel road to the spit starts on Government Road’s west side, just north of the Squamish Valley Feed Supply store. It is almost 3 miles (4.5 km) from the unmarked turnoff to the end of the spit. Turn left just before the road climbs up on the dike and follow along south to the very end. The spit is administered by the Squamish Windsurfing Society.
For years, windsurfing on Alta Lake was the pastime of choice for many ski buffs in the off-season. Then along came the mountain bike. Windsurfing is still popular, although you’d be advised to wear a wet suit as the lake’s glacier-fed waters are always bracingly cold. Rainbow Park on the west side of the lake is one of the best places to launch. There’s even a section of the beach here set aside specifically for windsurfers. Take Alta Lake Rd west of Hwy 99 to reach the park. Other launch sites include Lakeside Park on the east side of Alta Lake. The turnoff to the park is indicated on the west side of Hwy 99. Windsurfers are available for rent here during summer months.
Even though Whistler lies over 30 miles (50 km) inland from the Pacific, the ocean stills exerts an influence. As water in the Strait of Georgia evaporates and rises in summer months, cooler air is drawn towards it from the interior. Wind channels out to the strait through valleys such as Whistler’s and creates ideal afternoon conditions for windsurfing, as well as keeping pesky biting insects down.