On a weekend full of highlights, nothing stood out more than a 14-year-old winning it all at the 2nd annual Tofino Paddle Surf SUP Invitational.
The event, held over three days at the end of October, included two days of stand-up paddleboard surf competition followed by a day of surfing. Both events and all categories were competitive with more than 134 entries.
The SUP Division’s Open Champion was Jeffrey Spencer, a 14-year old dual Canadian-U.S. citizen from Maui. He claimed the title Saturday afternoon in clean surf at Cox Bay. Second place went to Tofino Paddle Surf team rider Marco Procopio, followed by Glen Pearson from Tofino and Spencer’s little brother, 12-year-old Finn.
“We all had a bunch of waves that were pretty similar, so I had no idea who was going to be first or who was going to be last,” Jeffrey said. “It could have been any order.”
As the Tofino SUP Surf contest is the Canadian championships, the victory landed Jeffrey a place in the 2016 International Surfing Association World SUP and Paddleboard Championships in April. Procopio will also represent Canada. On the women’s side, event organizer Catherine Bruhwiler took the honour, after claiming the Women’s Open SUP Division. She beat out 17 other women to claim the victory; that’s twice as deep a field as last year when nine competed.
“The level of skill was so much better than last year, and not just in the women’s division,” she says. “The sports progressing really fast and you could really see it out there on the water. I learned a ton just watching.”
Both men’s divisions, the Open and the Amateurs, sold out with 66 competitors, 25 more than last year. And they put on a show, wowing the beachside spectators and fellow competitors alike. The ideal conditions didn’t hurt. Both days were almost windless with clean, peeling surf and warm temperatures. More than a few surfers paddled out with bare toes and hoodless heads for the 20 minute heats.
Saturday culminated with a party at the Shores, a huge cedar building hanging over the harbour, catered by local Tofino restaurant Wolf in the Fog. Along with hand made wood trophies by Woodshed Collective for the top three in each each category, Bruhwiler dug deep in the huge prize bin generously donated by a long list of sponsors including: Blu Wave SUP, Cascadia SUP, Coast Mountain Magazine, Forest + Waves, Kalavida Surf Shop, Tin Wis Resort, Tofino Brewing Company, Ocean River Sports, SIC SUP, Tourism Tofino, Werner Paddles, Crab Dock Pizza Co., Ausmosis, Crystal Cove Resort, Norm Hann Expeditions, Pacific Sands Beach Resort, Paddle Canada, Jimmy Lewis SUP, Northman, Three Dogs Snack & Surf, XCEL, and prizing from a load of great companies local and afar.
Sunday was another sunny one with perfect wave conditions for the surf portion of the event.
“I wanted to include surfing and SUP because the sports are both about loving the beach and the waves,” says Bruhwiler. “I loved seeing both styles of surfing out there having fun and competing together for the first time.”
She’s a perfect ambassador for the event. Bruhwiler added the women’s shortboard title to her SUP crown. He son Kalum Bruhwiler won the men’s shortboard, as well as the under 16 division, where he beat out the SUP finalists Jeffrey and Finn Spencer. Surfers young and old, long and short board, duked it out throughout the day. A full list of winners and competitors can be found at tofinopaddlesurf.com.
The successful event has Bruhwiler already scheming for how to make it better next year.
“We’ve got amazing volunteers, fantastic judging, generous sponsors, an amazing venue and a growing and improving group of competitors,” she says. “It’s going to be hard to top this year’s event, especially with the perfect conditions, but we’ll do our best.”
To find out more about the event and the dates for next year's 3rd Annual Tofino Paddle SUP Surf Invitational go to tofinopaddlesurf.com or find Tofino Paddle Surf on Facebook.