Canada’s Elite Surfers Train in Tahiti for Olympic Qualifier at Teahupo’o

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This week, Canada’s cresting surfers are harnessing the ocean’s might in Tahiti, prepping themselves for the impending Olympic event at Teahupo’o next year.

Dom Domic, the executive head of Surf Canada, heaps praise on Teahupo’o, describing it as one of the world’s top three wave locations, boasting an unsurpassed marine environment. The aquatic challenge is intense and promises to offer a visual spectacle in the forthcoming Olympics. The enchanting backdrop of tropical Tahiti with its towering green mountains and clear blue waters, fused with the electrifying surfing competition over live coral, situated about a kilometre from the beach, will certainly dazzle spectators.

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This exploratory trip is a precursor to the Pan American Games, which serve as a significant Olympic qualifier for our Canadian surfers. Our contingent in Tahiti includes the Olin sisters, Sanoa and Mathea, the Young brothers – Cody and Levi – as well as Reed Platenius, Wheeler Hasburgh and their coach, Shannon Brown. Their aquatic engagement commenced on Wednesday following their Tuesday arrival.

Notably missing from the week-long camp is Erin Brooks, the distinguished young surfer. As per Domic, the teenager is presently engaged in California, fulfilling sponsorship commitments tied to the World Surf League finals.

Brooks, a Texan native with Quebecois roots, astonished many in June, taking home a shortboard silver medal from the World Surfing Games in El Sunzal, El Salvador. Currently competing under the Canadian banner, Brooks continues her pursuit towards acquiring Canadian citizenship, an endeavour that has been met with recent complexities. The International Surf Association, after the El Salvador competition, decreed that despite unfinalised citizenship formalities, Brooks can retain her medal as no unfair advantage was gained. However, points earned towards Canada have been dismissed.

As the Olympic surfing category continues to expand, from 20 to 24 places, tough challenges for qualification persist. For Canada, the Pan Am Games, which occur from October 20th to November 5th in Santiago, offer a possible path for Olympic surfing entry. The heat is on for the 16 surfers, male and female alike, vying for an Olympic spot in Chile.

Another potential road to the Olympics lies through the ISA World Surfing Games scheduled for February in Puerto Rico. Despite the availability of these events, Canada presently has no competitors on the World Surf League Championship Tour.

Yet, Canadians have certainly left an indelible mark on the North American Qualifying Series. Sanoa Olin took the shortboard event crown last Sunday in Nags Head, North Carolina, marking a significant victory in her third final this year. She had previously lost to her sister Mathea in the SLO CAL Open final at Morro Bay, California in February.

According to Domic, orchestrating the seven-day Tahiti training was no small feat. Navigating the logistical puzzle required local expertise, offshore accessibility, and safety considerations. However, reassurance remains that they are in capable hands.

The venture’s financial backing partly originates from the Canadian Olympic Committee, topped with donations and additional support from Surf Canada. Brooks along with Cody Young and Sanoa Olin have already experienced the Teahupo’o waves.

Of the squad, Mathea and Sanoa Olin, 20 and 18 years respectively, hail from Tofino, British Columbia, as do the 16-year-old Brooks and 19-year-old Platenius. Born in Hawaii, Cody and Levi Young, aged 24 and 19, call Makawao home. However, their Toronto-born father makes them eligible to represent Canada in the competition. Wheeler Hasburgh, born in Invermere, British Columbia, and raised in Mexico now operates from Encinitas, California.

Other qualifiers for the Pan American Games include Finn Spencer and Catherine Temple (Stand Up Paddle Surf), Mike Darbyshire and Lina Augaitis (Stand Up Race), and Olivia Stokes (longboard).

In the previous 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, Mathea Olin secured bronze in the longboard category.