Surfer girl’s never ‘board’ of life in Alberni

How does a Cowichan girl who learned how to dance in India and surf in Tofino end up owning a surfboard shop in Port Alberni? Check it out.

Totally Board Surf Company’s Shelly Chester is still ‘hanging ten’ after all these years—and loving it.

So how does a girl from Cowichan who learned how to dance in India and surf in Tofino end up owning a surfboard shop in Port Alberni?

Tracey Chester, 52, grew up in the Cowichan Valley with her parents, two older brothers and one sister.

Her earliest memory of growing up there is distinct.

“I remember collecting clams with my family at Cowichan Bay when I was two years old,” Chester said. “I can still see it clearly.”

Chester went to school in Cowichan and graduated in 1977.

Her favourite subject was writing and her favourite teacher was her creative writing teacher – Mrs. Turner.

“She knew Margaret Atwood and I thought that was impressive,” Chester said.

Not judging or overpraising people is a trait that was honed by her grandmother, whom she counts as her sole role model while growing up.

“She used to say ‘Never put anyone higher than your own head and never rejoice in anyone’s defeat,”” Chester said.

Aspirations aren’t something Chester believes in.

“I was interested in theatre, dance, travel and I’ve done all that,” Chester said.

“If aspirations are what someone wants to be then that’s what they always were.”

Chester travelled throughout North Africa and Europe after she graduated from high school.

Bitten by the surf bug in 1978, she moved to Tofino at the tender age of 18, which was then a small, mellow hippie hamlet.

It was a different place then than it is now. “There was this wild energy there,” Chester said. “It was full of alternate people doing alternate things.”

Five years later Chester moved to Ucluelet, where she would live for the next 25 years. She worked in the service industry, worked with children, did theatre and ran her own business, which was one of the first to retail hemp products.

Chester pulled up stakes again, this time to Port Alberni, where she and her partner Billy Leach operate the Totally Board surf shop on Johnston Road.

The two met back in 1998 when Chester needed someone to do a fibreglass cast of something and was referred to Leach, who did body casting.

These days Chester splits her time minding the shop, riding her horse, working in the service industry and ice skating in the winter.

Chester has danced, travelled, surfed and travelled some more, a testament to the best advice she ever received.

“Better to do the things than regret not doing them—my mother told me that,” Chester said.

The Deer Hunter is Chester’s favourite movie because of the way it portrays the impact of the Vietnam War on ordinary people such as Robert DeNiro’s character.

And Chester is reading books about Hatha Yoga, Dressage and Brother of Tao.

One gets the impression that Chester thinks of time as a precious commodity to be used wisely.

“It’s easy to run out of time,” she said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com

Just Posted

Rosalind Chapman seeks seat on Port Alberni city council

Community volunteer and longtime Alberni Valley resident Rosalind Chapman will seek a… Continue reading

Accident causes power outage on Beaver Creek Road

One sent to West Coast General Hospital in crash

Save-On-Foods donates to summer kids’ program in Port Alberni

Food bank takes over from breakfast programs once summer vacation starts

West Coast Hockey Prep Camp draws nearly 1,000 players to Port Alberni

History-making Korean hockey coach joins league of celebrity instructors

Port Alberni co-ops targeted in different crimes

One break-and-enter, one case of graffiti at each gas station

BC Games: Day 1 comes to an end

Medals have already been handed out following one day of competition in the 2018 BC Summer Games

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

ZONE 6: Rugby star Maggie Banks carries family legacy to BC Games

Shawnigan Lake student and Coquitlam native following her parents to the national program

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Crosswalk vandalism leaves black mark for Cowichan as B.C. Games begin

Rainbow crosswalk defaced just days after being painted

Photo gallery: BC Games Day 1

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

UPDATED: Anti-pipeline campers digging in as eviction deadline expires

The City of Burnaby had ordered the Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters out for violating bylaws

Trump was taped talking of paying Playboy model: AP source

Source says former personal lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded discussion prior to 2016 election

Most Read