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Surfers take on tsunami-like wave in New Brunswick

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The Canadian Press

Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 6:12 PM -

Colin Whitbread says his 29-kilometre surf on a single tidal bore Wednesday in the Petitcodiac River in southeastern New Brunswick was unlike anything he has ever experienced in his years riding waves.

"There's nothing like it in the world, so it's an experience totally unique,'' said Whitbread, who was caked in mud and covered in scrapes.

"I'll never forget this.''

Whitbread and J.J. Wessels say they rode the wave for two hours over the muddy river, where they were joined by other surfers as they approached Moncton's riverfront to large crowds who cheered them on. Whitbread said while it was exciting, it was also dangerous and should only be attempted by experienced surfers with emergency crews for support.

The tidal bore results from the high tides in the Bay of Fundy, pushing water into the river and creating a wave about a metre in height.

"It's like a freight train,'' said Whitbread, 33.

"You're catching a little tsunami tidal wave.''

It's that kind of danger that kept Tim Adham from Nova Scotia on the shore watching the event with his daughter. The pair drove to Moncton with their surf boards intending to ride the bore but chose to take a pass.

"I might come back and give it a try when it gets more popular and there is some kind of contingency set up for if somebody gets hurt or somebody gets stuck,'' Adham said. "But for now it's just a bunch of extreme guys trying it out.''

Adham said he got a lot of strange looks from people at Lawrencetown Beach, a popular surfing spot in the Halifax area, when he said he was going to Moncton to surf.

The tidal bores in the Petitcodiac River have increased in height in recent years since gates under a causeway that crosses over the river were opened in 2010. There is a plan to replace a 300-metre section of the causeway with a bridge, which would allow the tidal bore wave and aspiring surfers to travel another 15 kilometres up the river.

Ben Champoux, Moncton's director of tourism, said he hopes tidal bores become a tourist draw for the city.

"It is a game-changer for Moncton and our river,'' he said.

James Upham of Moncton was one of the many people staking out a good viewing spot to see the tidal bore. 

"That was one of the coolest things I've ever seen,'' he said. "I grew up in Moncton and remember when the bore was a lot smaller than it is today, and to see people actually surfing on it is exciting.''

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