Community spirit swelled at Chesterman Beach on Sept. 16 as 98 young West Coast surfers amazed a stoked crowd of supporters at the ninth annual Bruhwiler Kids Surf Classic.
“Compared to years past, the skill level has gone up very noticeably and there are a lot of kids who are surfing super well. They’re actually paddling out the back and catching big waves and doing turns,” event organizer Catherine Bruhwiler told the Westerly News after the event. “You need to have the culture in order for the sport to grow. Events like this are ways to make the momentum continue and give the kids opportunities to stoke their fire.”
Gus Chong took the top spot in the 10 and under boys division followed by Rufus Dyrchs, Taj Westwood, Sawyer Hopkins, Owen Davis and Jack Smith.
Mavi Terhune won the 10 and under girls division followed by Quinn Nuccio, Stella Wyton, Poppy Montgomery, Nika Sale and Indiana Gaces.
Kye Sale earned first in the 14 and under boys division followed by Kyten Traviss, Julien Sylvester, Mica Greig, Kai Grigg and Sloan Zuck-Schmidt.
“It was really fun. It’s a good event. The waves were fun and everybody had good vibes,” Sale, who also took second place in the 18 and under division, told the Westerly while holding both trophies. “I know all of the competitors and they’re my friends so I can cheer them on in the water…It’s nice to see the other person win. It’s obviously good if you win, but it’s also nice if you see your friends win.”
He added he was feeling confident in his performance about halfway through the finals and stuck with his strategy of keying in on high volume.
“I went for the inside waves and caught some insiders and tried to catch more than waiting for the bigger sets,” he said. “Around the 5 or 6 minutes mark, I’d caught a lot of waves and I was looking at the other competitors and seeing how many they caught and I was thinking I was doing pretty good.”
Ocea Green led the 14 and under girls division followed by Westerly Wyton, Jade Rosene, Auley Feaver, Nika Sale and Lily Frost.
Green also took the top spot in the 18 and under girls division followed by Aqua Bruhwiler, Ella Wallace, Sarita Wyton, Willow Hopkins and Lily Frost.
Shea Bruhwiler won the 18 and under boys division, followed by Kye Sale, Luke Payne, Mica Greig, Dusty Bruhwiler and Cole Beaven.
“I’m super stoked,” Shea Bruhwiler told the Westerly after being announced the winner.
“It was a super fun day. The waves weren’t the best, but it was fun just to get out there with everyone and see all the young kids ripping too.”
Bruhwiler has participated in every Kids’ Classic so far and said the talent level has grown along with the camaraderie in the waves.
“It’s a fun comp to compete in because it’s not super competitive, it’s just fun to be a part of,” he said. “I saw really good surfing by everyone in all the divisions. The waves were tough, but all the surfing was really good.”
He added that it’s great to see young surfers getting involved in the sport, strengthening the West Coast’s contribution to Canada’s competitive surf scene.
“I think it’s important to get the generations started young so that they’ll be at a high level when they get older and it’s good for Canada to have young up and coming surfers,” he said.
Along with their well-earned trophies, the young surfers also had a shot at a slew of raffle prizes donated by local businesses and Catherine Bruhwiler was thrilled with the generosity displayed.
“They really donate good value things to help the kids along their journey to actually become better surfers, which is so great,” she said.
Saturday’s event ran from from 9 a.m. to around 5:30 p.m., offering families a solid beach day throughout the competition.
“For me, it felt like one of the best events we’ve done,” Bruhwiler said. “The whole team was very organized and we’ve been doing it so long now that it felt a little bit more seamless than the past. The judges were on point, which always really helps, and the biggest thing was the community and parents came together and really stepped up. We had so many awesome volunteers…It was super noticeable and it made it awesome.”
Local surf coach Jay Rosene was all smiles as he helped prep young surfers before each heat and watched them share each others’ stoke.
“This event is so amazing for kids,” Rosene told the Westerly during the competition. “They challenge each other. As parents, you try and push them but they only push themselves when they’re with their friends. The more time they’re with their friends, the better they seem to get.”
He added he was thrilled to see so many youth from across the region having a blast participating in the sport.
“We have incredible youth on the West Coast…Tofino has been the heartbeat of surfing forever, but the amount of kids coming out of Ucluelet is almost more than Tofino and it’s just great to see that both towns are so focused and the kids are having so much fun ageing with each other and surfing with each other,” he said. “Surfing is a sport that can be done with your friends, or by yourself, but it’s all about an individual out on the water having fun. You could surf small waves, you could surf big waves, you could surf whitewater, but the best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.”
Tofino dad Keith Orchiston said the Bruhwiler Kids Classic is an exemplary example of families and communities coming together to make West Coast life amazing.
“It’s the people that make this a really special place and to have them all here supporting the youth, this is so great. It’s good for the kids’ confidence and it’s good for the adults as well to see their kids out doing this sort of stuff,” he said. “It’s an awesome event and you have so much love here too. Everyone puts a lot into this and that’s what makes it awesome.”
Tofino councillor Tom Stere was in awe of the community spirit shining from the sand.
“You just have to look around and look at what’s going on right now. I can’t count the number of kids with smiling faces and kids in the water playing. This is, without question, one of the premier events for our kids to get out and enjoy the waters that we have in our own backyard and the families that are here enjoying this,” Stere said.
“This is how I define community in many ways. We often ask, ‘What is the sense of community?’ Well, I’m standing here and I’m feeling it. It’s palpable. It’s here. There’s no question about the community spirit. This is all a part of celebrating community in our region.”
He added tremendous effort is put into making the event a success.
“It comes in waves as we all know, there’s generations upon generations that continue those traditions of supporting the community and the youth,” he said.
“There’s no question that it takes a community to raise a child and this is just another example of that…We have the most incredible kids on the planet because of this and all of the wonderful things in the environment that we’re so fortunate to be able to live in.”
Bruhwiler said the vibe among the families at the beach is a key part of the stoke as locals gather to celebrate the nature around them and the reason they chose West Coast life.
“Finally, I feel like there’s a really good beach culture that’s happening,” she said. “Surfing aside, just having a fun beach day where the whole community can get together and celebrate their kids and celebrate the beach and the waves. It’s really fun.”
She added the sport is becoming so popular that the event will likely need to expand to two days as waves of new surfers join the growing culture.
“It’s awesome to see the stoke that so many of these kids have. They are just so excited about it and they’re doing really well. Before it was a small handful and now there’s way more kids who are actually surfing really well and it’s so fantastic to see because it means they’re spending time in the water and that’s great,” she said.
She noted the event works hard to be inclusive and welcoming for all young surfers, with gear provided to those who need it.
She said her motivation to launch the event came from her love of the sport and the beach.
“I’m just a big beach bum at heart and surfing has given me so much in my life. It’s provided me so much joy, activity, exercise, a social life, goals and drive and so many challenges. It’s
provided so much for me as well as a livelihood and I’m just so grateful for that,” she said.
“It puts you in nature, it’s challenging, it’s super fun and you can forget about everything else while you’re out there and just be in big Mother Nature and Mother Ocean and nothing else matters. Those moments in life are so valuable to everyone. If you can get kids into that when they’re young, then they will always have that in their back pocket as a place to go and a place to connect with themselves and with nature and that’s the best.”
Ucluelet dad C.J. Schmidt was delighted to watch his son Sloan surfing with his friends while surrounded by local families.
“It gets everybody in the community out to have a great day surfing and let the kids shine and show what they’re up to,” he said. “I want to thank the Bruhwiler family for all their advocating for the surfing families on the West Coast of Canada and we’re just stoked that this keeps going…All these kids have spent the whole year working really hard, doing what they love and this is just a really good time so they can showcase what they’ve been working towards and it’s really great to get all the families together to have a great time and enjoy the beach.”
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