I was standing in the middle of REI, turning a $45-dollar can of bear repellent in my hands, first taking note of the bloodthirsty antagonist from “The Revenant” depicted on the front before curiously looking at the ingredients on the back. The label’s bold lettering explained that, if I purchased the predator-strength pepper spray, I could deter a bear situated up to 30 feet in front of me. It also explained how, if not handled correctly, the chemicals inside could disable the user, not the bear. I pictured myself fumbling with a small aerosol can as 600 pounds of ravenous fur and sharp teeth barreled towards me from a mere 30 feet away, taking aim at the hangry beast and accidently macing myself in the face. The only thing worse than trying to defend yourself from a deadly mammal, I imagined, is having to do so while blinded by capsicum.

Still standing there, I texted SURFER photographer Grant Ellis. “We don’t need, like, bear repellent do we?”

“No bears on the island,” Ellis replied. He was likely getting sick of my neurosis, which shifted into high gear after I’d signed up for a strike mission to the northern coastline of Haida Gwaii—a forest-covered archipelago off the coast of British Columbia, sitting just 70 miles south of the Alaskan panhandle. Once there, we were to meet up with Santa Cruz pro surfer Noah Wegrich and most-interesting-man-alive candidate Josh Mulcoy to find an alleged coldwater treasure trove of empty beach break and river mouth surf.

Mulcoy had warned me that the weather in Haida Gwaii—nicknamed the “Canadian Galapagos” for its heavy rainfall and diverse endemic wildlife—could be stormy and otherwise completely unpredictable. It would be wise of me to bring layers of clothes and ample rain gear—items I had never needed on a surf trip, and the reason I had come to REI…before being distracted by the idea of fending off a bear attack.

As I put the bear spray back on the shelf, I realized that I was completely out of my element. Up until this point, my passport was mainly decorated with stamps from

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