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Massive talent cheered at Tofino’s Queen of the Peak female surf competition

Kristy Murphy, Mathea Olin and Ella Wallace take top spots in epic contest
Mathea Olin is carried out of the waves after winning the Queen of the Peak’s shortboard finals at Cox Bay. (Andrew Bailey photo)

A wave of jubilation exploded across Cox Bay as Queen of the Peak celebrated an epic 12th annual appearance.

The all-female surf competition was founded by Krissy Montgomery of Surf Sister and Jay Gildenhuys of Shelter and, powered by a colossal swell of support from surfers and sponsors, has become a legendary staple on the West Coast’s calendar

“I say it over and over again, but it really does take a community to run a surf event like this,” Montgomery cheered from the closing ceremonies’ podium on Sunday, Oct. 1. “I want to thank everybody for coming out, for pitching in and for being part of this really special community event. We love you all.”

This year’s event saw 48 surfers competing in the longboard division, 48 in the shortboard division and 16 youth gunning for Princess of the Peak.

Tofino’s Mathea Olin won the shortboard final with a score of 11.9, followed by Sanoa Olin, 10.6, Ocea Green, 10.07 and Catherine Bruhwiler, 8.6.

“It definitely feels good. The waves are tricky out there, so a lot can happen when everybody has really low scores. I’m just happy I found a couple,” Mathea told the Westerly News.

“Anybody can win any event, so it’s just really about being in the moment and trying to be on the best waves. Performing your best is all you have to worry about, not really getting too carried away on winning it, but more performing to your best ability.”

The 20-year-old surf phenom also competed in the event’s longboard division, reaching the semi-finals, and said the fatigue of tackling five heats on the day was well worth it.

“I surfed a bunch of heats today so, in the last heat, I was feeling really tired, but I definitely tried to push myself to create energy so I wasn’t quite as tired out there. Overall I felt pretty good. The waves were small but I definitely made it happen on a few,” she said.

“I’m mainly here to have fun. I love longboarding and so many amazing longboarders came up for this event this year, so it’s definitely inspiring to be in the water with them. I’ll always do longboard in this event because it’s just all good vibes and amazing people all around.”

Mathea has celebrated significant international success in her young surfing career having earned bronze and gold medals in the 2017 Pan Am Surf Games’ shortboard and longboard categories respectively as well as finishing second in the 2018 Rip Curl Nationals. She became the first Canadian surfer ever to earn a medal at the Pan American Games when she won bronze in 2019.

Prior to all that success though, Queen of the Peak was the first surf competition she participated in about 10 years ago and she said she’s cherished the annual experience ever since.

“It holds a really special place in my heart. The whole community supports it and so many women come together and cheer each other. It’s just an amazing event,” she said.

“Without a community, we definitely wouldn’t be able to have an event like this. Having a community that loves the ocean so much, you see everybody out there everyday and the fact that we can carry that love and energy into a competition just makes it so amazing…Thank you to Krissy for putting on this event and everyone else who was a part of it and definitely a huge shout out to all the amazing women that were ripping this whole weekend.”

At the podium, Montgomery recalled watching Mathea compete in the Princess of the Peak division a decade ago.

“I still remember the first time you caught that wave out the back,” she said. “It was the second time the Princesses were involved in the contest and Mathea paddled out the back and caught this bomb and did big-old turns on it. I think that was when all of us realized that the future of surfing had just changed and the torch was about to be passed.”

This year’s Princess of the Peak crown went to Ella Wallace, 16, who won the finals with a score of 16.16, followed by Westerly Wyton, 10.00, Jade Rosene, 7.37 and Sarita Wyton, 7.00.

“I’m just super stoked. All the girls are surfing awesome. It’s super fun out there,” Wallace told the Westerly. “You can’t take a heat before it’s over. I was just having a good time and focusing on what I could…Congrats to all the other girls, thank you to my parents and my coach and to Krissy and Surf Sister and Shelter and everybody for putting on this event.”

She added that the comradery displayed throughout the competition reflects the encouraging and welcoming culture of the West Coast’s female surf community.

“I love the female surfing scene in Tofino. It’s amazing. So many women supporting each other. I worked at Surf Sister over this last summer and that was an amazing experience. I think it’s great just getting girls in the water and surfing. It’s so important and so awesome and this event really helps with that. It’s wonderful,” she said. “More women in the water is amazing. Women in sports is so awesome. It’s so great and I love it. I’m so happy and so stoked.”

The Princess of the Peak category is open to surfers 16 and under and Montgomery beamed with pride during the awards’ presentation as she noted the booming talent of young surfers.

“I’ve got to say, it’s everybody’s favourite (category). I saw tears out there in the audience today. Watching how surfing has progressed over the years is phenomenal. The first year it was mostly parents pulling kids into waves and us all clapping. Now, you just saw what happened out there. They are the future of surfing and we couldn’t be more proud. Everybody was ripping out there,” Montgomery said.

Kristy Murphy topped the longboard finals with a score of 14.83, followed by Naomi Goez, 11.93, Nique Miller, 11.83, and Sanoa Olin, 9.34.

“I’m in shock,” an ecstatic Murphy told the Westerly after celebrating at the podium. “It just feels good. It feels really good.”

Murphy travelled from her hometown of Jupiter, Florida, to take in her third Queen of the Peak and she was quick to thank Gildenhuys, Montgomery and all the event’s sponsors and supporters.

She suggested the myriad of Queen of the Peak events and celebrations leading up to the weekend’s competition add an amazing element to the experience.

“I’ve never been treated like that before an event…They have treated us like queens. We are the Queens of the Peak and it’s every competitor here. We’re so lucky to be part of an event like this,” she said. “What’s so impressive is how the whole community comes together to give so much, gladly, for this event. They’re so proud of it and they should be, it’s incredible.”

Murphy, who won the World Longboard Championship in 2005, had never worn a Queen of the Peak crown before her weekend’s win.

“Tofino is so beautiful. For me, being a Floridian, it’s just such a different experience. It’s cold water, but it’s a paradise, truly. It’s a cold water paradise from mountain to sea,” she said.

Murphy also won the event’s Masters Division for surfers 40 and older.

Other winners included Mele Saili and Sonah Olin who received Wave of the Day awards and People’s Champion Stephanie Wightman.

Throughout the podium presentations, Montgomery made a point to recognize all the semi-finalists.

“As you’ve all seen, this contest has gotten ruthless. It is cutthroat. It is so difficult to get into the finals and the talent level is so high that we just really want to acknowledge all the hard work you guys do,” she said. “Making it to the semi-finals in this contest is a feat in its own…Congratulations ladies. You were ripping out there.”

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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