The Georgia Strait Supporters are an independent Whitecaps FC supporters group on Vancouver Island stretching from Nanaimo to Port McNeil. It was founded and is run by Ryan Newton and Mike Corbin. The GSS is non-membership group consists of a core group of roughly 18 people but on any given game day can grow to upwards of 30 people. They formed February 9th, 2013 but most of us met well before that.
We just wanted a name and symbol to identify us better.
The GSS travel from Nanaimo for every Whitecaps game… WhitecapsXI sat down with Ryan and Mike to discuss a typical game day for this supporters group… Ryan and Mike stressed that although these experiences are for our group, that it also goes for any fan/supporter on Vancouver Island. The South Islanders supporters group in Victoria could probably tell you a very similar story as well.
Typical Night Prior To Gameday
The excitement starts building itself up the night before. Phone calls are exchanged, text messages back and forth, and with all that the planning begins. Who’s picking up who? What time do we leave? What ferry to catch? References to Whitecaps FC Daily, debating about starting lineups and for some, hoping that they leave in enough time to catch “the boat”.
On a typical 4:00pm kickoff day, our group begins the trek to BC Place when by taking the 10:40am ferry out of Departure Bay in Nanaimo. It’s not as simple as just “catching the ferry” for quite a few of us. The ones in Nanaimo get up, make arrangements for people to take their pets out, etc and off they go. However, for others their day begins in the wee hours of the morning. Take for instance Michelle and Mike Tremblay, as well as daughter Madison who come down from Port McNeil. As the family describes it:
“Alarm goes off at 5 in the morning and chanting begins! We are out the door by 6:15am ready for the day! Dressed in our Whitecaps gear we begin our adventure driving through herds of elk and all types of weather to get to the ferry. We start busting out with our Southsiders chants along the way and singing to ‘White is the Colour ‘as we enter the ferry terminal. We try to park in our same spot every time the Whitecaps play, hoping to bring them luck! 365 km’s and 4 hours later, we meet up with our fellow Georgia Strait Supporters and plan the rest of the adventure!”
Others, like friends Derek Costantino and John Kalhous who come down from Courtenay describes their 1 and a half hour journey:
“On game day our journey starts early, most days we are in our car and screaming down Island at 8:30 in the morning, weighing the merits of grabbing a bite now or on the ferry. Without fail we are late. Parking the car and sprinting across the parking lot have become a ritual that we somehow cannot avoid! Familiar faces greet us at the terminal as we join our crew, our fellow Georgia Strait Supporters and catch up on the past week’s news.”
The Ferry Ride
Much of the talk revolves around the Whitecaps but there are a lot of laughs and jokes to be had on the hour and a half ferry ride. The Georgia Strait Supporters have become a large (dare we say functionally dysfunctional) family. We’ve all become close friends and much like any family, if you do something foolish you’re going to get a good ribbing for it. Always in good fun of course.
As the ferry approaches Horseshoe Bay we get our game faces on. It usually goes with getting nearer the front of the off-loading line followed by a roll call of “does everyone have enough change?” The gate drops and… GO! If anyone has tried for the bus after getting off the ferry you know that it’s much like the 100m final at the Olympics! Once you get closer to the bus the eternal debate is which one to get on? Which one will leave that 5 or 10 minutes earlier as they have to wait to fill it up (Insider trade secret, always gets on the shortest bus as it leaves first. We guarantee it!).
Bus Ride To Downtown
The bus to downtown is like any other bus ride. Cramped, stuffy, a lot of standing, and if you’re lucky, a seat! This is when the anticipation builds for a lot of us. We’re on the other side! By the time we hit downtown it’s 12:45pm and it’s time for eating and drinking. We have just under 2 hours to find a place to eat before we all meet up for the march to BC Place an hour before kickoff with all the Southsiders. It might seem like a lot of time but it goes by extremely quick. Some go to Roxy Burger,others Doolins and some have got to find the latest food cart that Vancouver has to offer.
We are all scattered throughout the Southside. There is no area within it that we all sit as a group, although that might happen sooner than later. We all sing, chant, yell, scream, and cry just like everyone else in the southside. Of course we have all the same experiences as the rest of Whitecaps fans and supporters.
Once the game is over at around 6:00pm we usually have enough time to see but mostly hear Carl Valentine give out the Budweiser Man of the Match but then it`s off to the bus. It`s a shame but we don’t have time to enjoy the fruits of a win. We all hall ass to the bus stop where we eventually all meet up for our journey home.
The Journey Home
Now the bus roulette game begins once again. If you get the first 257 express bus, then you make the 7:30pm boat no problem. However, get the slower 250 and all bets are off. Let`s be honest, who wants to spend 2 hours at Horseshoe Bay waiting for the next ferry? It all just becomes a game of chance. Will I or won`t I make the ferry? Feelings of `yes we`ll make it` to “oh crap we`re not going to make it” come over you. Everyone becomes your enemy. Every time somebody pulls the yellow string to request a stop you start thinking “Come on buddy! Don`t you know I need to make a ferry!”
Usually we all make the 7:30pm boat where we initially talk about the game and what went right and wrong. Halfway through the ferry ride home it becomes pretty quiet as some of us have been travelling for 12 hours at that point. The ferry docks at around 9:00pm and we all say our goodbyes until next time. It’s a 10 minute drive home for Mike and Ryan, but as you have heard from some, it’s just a checkpoint in a long journey. They still have and hour and a half to 4 hours of driving ahead of them until they can hit the sack for the night.
Game day start to finish time
A Georgia Strait Supporters Story
One story the GSS would like to share with us shows how crazy going to a home game can be. It also truly sums up what it takes to be a Georgia Straight Supporter.
This season’s Voyageurs Cup Final
It was a Wednesday night game and none of us go to midweek games as it usually involves staying overnight. Two of our members Derek and John from Courtenay get the idea that we are going to go to the game and make it back all on the same night. We all arrange with our gracious employers to get off a few hours early from work so we could catch the 3:30pm ferry. So they make the two drive down from Courtenay and pick up Ryan, Ryan’s wife Pam, and Mike. We make the boat with 5 minutes to spare. We get stuck in traffic over the Lions Gate Bridge, make it to downtown with just over an hour before kickoff. Put down a few pints, do the march, laugh, cheer, scream, cry over the game and zoom back to catch the 10:45 pm ferry with minutes to spare.
That’s the sort of stuff it takes to be a supporter on Vancouver Island. It almost felt like it played out like a Guy Ritchie film with quick shots to describe a long journey. Ferry, Eat, Drive, Park, Booze, Cheer, Cry, Drive, Ferry, Bed.
What It Means To Be A Georgia Strait Supporter
We asked some of our members to say what it means to support the Whitecaps as a Georgia Strait Supporter. Perhaps because we are too close to it and don’t have enough distance for proper perspective we leave it in the hands of Derek to summarize.
“Being a member of the Georgia Strait Supporters is a double edge sword sometimes, there is a huge commitment for the boys and girls on the Island as we have long distances to travel, added to the constraints of family, jobs and the sheer distance of our club. But we come as a unit, time after time, up and down Vancouver Island and across the ocean to see our Whitecaps play because it matters. It matters to us that we can lend a voice. It matters to us that we can be part of something wonderful and it sure as hell matters that we do it as a group. We have formed some wonderful friendships in the past three years and at the center of this camaraderie is a passion, a love, a devotion to the Whitecaps. This is our club and our supporters group and I think that all the effort, money and time that we all have put in to this has been worth every penny. Call us crazy….Actually, just call us the Georgia Strait Supporters..!”
Thank you Ryan Newton and Mike Corbin!
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