Family and friendly competition dominate at SUP and Surf champs
The mini-grom beat the grom as sibling rivalry returned to the 3rd annual Tofino Paddle & Surf Championships, October 21 to 23. A 13 year old Finn Spencer beat out his 15 year old older brother Jeffery to win the men’s Pro Stand Up Paddle surf division, claiming the national title. And for the first time, prize money – $200.
A new national champion was crowned in the women’s division, as well, with Genna Flinkman claiming the title and $200 in prize money in the process. The two pro finals highlighted a stellar weekend of big, clean surf, hard fought heats, nearly zero garbage and good times on the beach in Canada’s surf capital.
“It was a stellar weekend of surfing,” said Catherine Bruhwiler, the contest organizer. “We couldn’t have asked for better surf conditions. And everyone, from competitors to volunteers to supporters, helped make it a great three days of competition.”
More competitors than ever before surfed over the three days: 79 in the SUP contest held Friday and Saturday and 32 in the surf contest held on Sunday.
“The swell was clean and fun for all the SUP heats and then on Sunday Cox Bay was as good as it gets for the surfers,” said Bruhwiler.
The action started with preliminary heats of the pro and amateur men’s SUP divisions on Friday in intermittent pouring rain at North Chesterman Beach. The soggy weather didn’t dampen the competitive fire and camaraderie. A building swell helped amp the stoke and sponsor tents kept competitors dry-ish. Supporting the event this year was Tofino Paddle Surf, Starboard, Werner Paddles, Wolf in the Fog, Woodshed Collective, True North Paddles Co, Hoyne Brewing, Tofino Brewing, Coast Mountain Culture, Paddle Canada, Tin Wis Resort, Crystal Cove, Cascadia, Blu Wave SUP, Shoreline Surf & SUP, Kahuna SUP, Aegir SUP, Tourism Tofino, and Mieke Dusseldorf.
Things got serious on Saturday as the swell continued to roll into North Chesterman with overhead sets that allowed the top surfers to show off their skills. Three morning heats culminated in the men’s amateur final with four competitors in the water trading rides and trying not to get caught inside the shore break.
The men’s pro final quickly followed with both Spencer brothers, local Emory Bosut and Glen Pearson in the water. They put on a show for the judges and spectators lining the beach with hard cut backs, railing bottom turns and sheets of water spraying off the lip. When the buzzer sounded no one was sure who had won, beyond someone with the last name Spencer. The women’s contests wrapped up as the swell began to subside through the afternoon. In the pro final Genna Flinkman, Nadia Baer, Diane Wenzel and Liz Richard traded waves for 15 minutes in some of the cleanest conditions of the contest.
All finalists were left in anticipation; the results would have to wait until the awards banquet that night.
“All the finals were really tight with less than a point separating first and second in some cases,” Bruhwiler says. “Every year the competition gets stiffer. The sport continues to progress really fast.”
Two new fun events finished off the afternoon: a beach pong tournament and a MegaSurf SUP team race. Beach pong is a mix of tennis and ping pong played with wooden paddles and a racket ball on a court drawn into firm beach sand. Possibly invented by the Vargas Island Beach Pong Association this was the first tournament ever held. Paul LaPerriere of Courtenay claimed the inaugural title over Ryan Stuart in a tight match. In the giant SUP race two teams of five paddled a 18-foot long SUP through the surf, around a buoy and back to the beach. Both teams managed to catch a sweet ride the whole way into the beach and then it was a foot race to the finish. The winning team included Sean Kerrigan, Jason Bennett, Issy Venables, Antoine Caron Cabana and Kelvin Humenny.
Saturday night SUP competitors, friends and family filled the beautiful Shores banquet hall, right on the water in Tofino Harbour, for the awards ceremony. After a gourmet meal catered by presenting sponsor and local restaurant Wolf in the Fog, Bruhwiler announced the results. Women’s amateur title went to Jenny Poppet. Ryan Stuart took the title in the men’s amateur.
In the women’s pro division Genna Flinkman took the victory and membership on the 2017 Canadian SUP Team. Nadia Baer came second followed by Diane Wenzel and Liz Richard. In the men’s pro final Finn Spencer snuck past defending champ and big brother Jeffery. Both Spencer’s claimed a spot on the 2017Canadian SUP Team.
After dolling out copious door or draw prize to just about every competitor a DJ rocked the party late into the night. When it was time to clean up Bruhwiler was impressed with the result of the event’s waste free initiative, which included giving all competitors a mug at registration that they used for soup, chilli, beer and drinks throughout the weekend, recycling and compost but no garbage cans on the beach, waste education and more.
“My proudest moment of the contest was cleaning up after the awards banquet and realizing there was not one piece of trash,” she says. The event also raised money for Clayoquot Action, a local environment charity.
Bruhwiler and her team of volunteers were up early again the next morning preparing for the surf portion of the contest. With the shifting swell they moved the venue to Cox Bay. It was some of the best conditions of the weekend and some of the best she has seen at a surf contest in Tofino – with performances to match.
“There were aerials and barrels, massive sprays and huge turns all day long,” she says. “It was epic.”
Siblings and relatives dominated in the surf contest too. Kalum Bruhwiler Temple took the win in the men’s shortboard followed by Pedro Belfort, Freddy Sandford and Reed Platenius. Platenius took the victory in the mixed longboard event ahead of Andrew Sadler, Brodie Zellar and Matt Westcott. In Under 18 girls Jasmine Sloman Porter beat out Serena Sloman Porter. Keanna Hasz and Aqua Bruhwiler came third and fourth, respectively. In the Under 12 boys Shea Bruhwiler won over Kobe Bruhwiler, Bodie Hasz and Kyten Travis. For a full list of all the weekend’s results check out the contest page on Facebook.
Even as Bruhwiler and her crew finish cleaning up from the weekend of events plans are already being made for how to make the event better for next year.