EGMONT, BRITISH COLUMBIA - It's the biggest salt water rapid in North America -- second fastest in the world. British Columbia’s Skookumchuck Rapids is beautiful and dangerous.
In 2009, a 49-foot tugboat capsized here in seconds – the crew survived.
But in 2012, two crew members aboard a search and rescue training boat were trapped and perished after the boat flipped in these waters.
But smaller, nimbler craft can ride the Skookumchuck with the proper training. And when they do, it's good enough drama to draw an audience: People hike the two-and-a-half-mile trail to the rapids anytime the tide ebbs to see whirlpools and anytime it floods to see the big waves.
The hike itself is beautiful. It starts in a mossy coastal rainforest, runs along the shores of Sechelt Inlet and ends at a sea side amphitheater.
Arrive during a flood tide, and the action rivals anything you'd find on the big screen.
As one spectator put it: 'I've never seen that before. It's unbelievable isn't it?'
Skookumchuck means strong water in Chinook jargon -- these waters earned that name because they're located in a narrow bottleneck where the tide flows in and out of Sechelt Inlet.
A tide change can force 200 billion gallons of water through this narrow passage. All that water means it is rich with sea life here.
And it also means this place goes from flat calm -- to surf's up -- in less than an hour.
Today the tide forms a smooth green wave perfect for paddlers with longboat kayaks.
'It's awesome. It's terrifying. And loads of fun!' said Kayaker Monica Russell.
When a paddler hooks up with the wave, they stay in place as millions of gallons of water rushes beneath them.
An endless wave.
Surf ... suspended.
It's a tough ride to catch. And when someone gets on, everyone in the water celebrates:
Kayaker Doug Taylor, proudly declared “Not bad for an old guy eh?” upon climbing out of his boat after conquering the wave. "When you get it, it feels great!” He said.
Soon the tide will change, and the Skookumchuck wave will vanish.
But it'll be back.
Along with the folks who can't stop playing on this powerful piece of water.
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