Gisele Bruhwiler scoops up Blake, one of her 10 grandkids, for a quick photo shoot. Bruhwiler says all her kids were raised on the beach. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

120 West Coast kids rock Bruhwiler Surf Classic in Tofino

“Surfing is a gift of this place.”

Cox Bay gifted fun waves and plenty of sunshine for the fifth annual Bruhwiler Kids Surf Classic this weekend. 120 participants entered the free surf event, which involved suiting up for non-competitive ‘expression sessions’ and competitive age divisions.

Gisele Bruhwiler, matriarch of the Bruhwiler surfing family and grandmother to 10 Bruhwilers, said she was grateful to see so many kids connecting with the sport.

“Surfing is a gift of this place,” she said. “[My kids] were blessed enough to live on the beach and go in this water every day. And, I wish this to every kid that lives in Tofino. They should all go in the ocean. That is something they should make use of as much as they can. I think it’s a great sport that helps kids to challenge themselves.”

Bruhwiler said she had five grandkids surfing in the contest: Blake, Charlie, Dusty, Shea, and Aqua. All the moms and dads, she notes, helped organize and run the event.

Ucluelet’s Rayne Sked, 9, made the under-10 girls final for the first-time. She said she has been practicing at Wickanninish Beach a lot on her 6’6” Softtech surfboard.

“I’m super proud of her,” said dad Jay Eskayeedee.

READ: National surf champs crowned at Wickaninnish Beach (Westerly News, May 5, 2018)

For Tofino’s Gabe Celebrini, 7, the Bruhwiler Classic was an inaugural step into the world of competition surfing.

“I surfed so much this summer that I decided to enter,” said Celebrini.

Member of the host family and professional surfer Kalum Temple Bruhwiler, 18, participated in the event as a judge this year, rather than a surfer.

“It’s more fun for me to watch the younger crew compete amongst themselves. In the past, we’ve never really had a juniors contest. This contest brings a wider competitor base to [surfing],” said Kalum, whose own focus is set on competing for Canada in the men’s world surf league qualifying series.

“For a lot of them, this is their first time in a competition,” Kalum went on to say. “That’s more the reason for the [Bruhwiler] contest. It’s to introduce kids into the contest vibe and hopefully get them stoked on competitive surfing.”

As part of the Bruhwiler Surf Classic, Surfrider Pacific Rim hosted an ocean-friendly contest for the best youth environmental steward award. Judging criteria included picking up three pieces of beach litter, guessing the amount of cigarette butts in a giant tub, and writing a message to the sea. The 2018 environmental steward winners Iris Sylvester, Yemaya Windle, and Kayla Stoski received a prize bag and will get to go visit the Cedar Coast Field Station on Vargas for a day of exploration with Surfrider core crew.

READ: Plastic bags to be banned in Saanich by 2020 (Vancouver Island Free Daily, Sept. 18, 2018)

The Bruhwiler Kids Surf Classic is a volunteer driven event that takes place every September. Registration is free and surfboards and wetsuits are provided for kids that don’t have their own.

“You don’t need to be rich to learn and become a great surfer,” notes Bruhwiler. “You just need to provide to your kids the tools, and watch them do their stuff from the beach if you don’t surf.”

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