From left: Tofino surfer Mathea Dempfle-Olin with her shiny new friend and Canada’s first-ever surfing medal at the Pan Am Games (Pablo Jiménez photo), the Uminari Taiko drumming ensemble performs in Ucluelet, racers rocket down Bay Street in the revived Ucluelet Soapbox Derby, and ‘Finding Solitude’ filmmakers Tristan Hinder-Hohlweg and Jaiden George.

Tofino and Ucluelet’s Top 10 sports and arts stories of 2019

Revisiting the Coast’s best sports and arts newsmakers of the past year.

Historic surfing medal for Canada

Tofino’s 16-year-old surfing sensation Mathea Dempfle-Olin made history for Canada at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.

Olin claimed bronze in the women’s longboard competition, which took place at the world-renowned point break of Punta Rocas, south of Lima’s city centre in Punta Negra.

This isn’t the first time Dempfle-Olin has made sporting history for her country. At the 2017 Pan American Surfing Games, she won Canada’s inaugural surfing medals in international competition; a bronze in women’s shortboard and gold in longboard.

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Pacific Football Club takes shape in Tofino

With the sun on their backs and sand in their toes, Vancouver Island’s newly minted professional soccer team Pacific FC opened 2019 pre-season with a special four-day training camp in Tofino.

From March 7 to 10, the Canadian Premier League (CPL) club played beach soccer on Mackenzie, went for beach runs, and laced up at the Wickaninnish Community School field to kick the ball around with the local kids.

Coming together as a team on – and off – the field was the goal.

“The energy in Tofino is magical so we thought it’d be a great place to start the pre-season,” said Pacific FC co-owner Rob Friend, adding that the players were not allowed to try surfing due to liability issues.

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Whale Festival cancelled

Pacific Rim Whale Festival Society nixed festival events for 2019 due to lack of community support.

“It’s such a great community event. Not only fun, but also educational. It’s a great start to our season and it also brings both our communities together, which is so important. I just hope people realize the importance of this festival and I hope we can get it going back in 2020,” said Lara Kemps, the Ucluelet council liaison for the PRWF.

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West Coast celebrates Japanese culture

The Pacific Rim Arts Society hosted two breathtaking performances from the Uminari Taiko drumming ensemble in May as part of the Cultural Heritage Festival. This year’s festival is titled ‘Sakura’ and is a celebration of Japanese art and culture on the West Coast. The drummers performed in Tofino and in Ucluelet, where they were joined by youth from the Warrior Program.

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Tofino Saltwater Classic raises $75K

Brendan Morrison’s iconic and philanthropic fishing tournament filled the West Coast with competitive jubilation from July 5-7, as roughly 130 fishers tried to top each others’ catches while casting a windfall of funding into important local initiatives.

The ninth time was the charm for Morgan Ottridge and Shane Johnson who teamed up to reel the tourney’s top chinook and coho onto their vessel: Drag ‘N’ Fly.

“At 6:30 this morning, I put my trusty white hoochie to the bottom and, bang, fish-on and it was running and running,” an elated Ottridge told the Westerly News at the event’s awards ceremony outside Tofino Resort and Marina. “It was a good fight, woke me up for sure and burned the arms a little bit.”

The fight proved well worth it as the 11.8-pound coho he snagged topped the leaderboard and earned him the $1,500 prize. Johnson’s 31.2-pound chinook earned the event’s biggest prize pot at $6,000.

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Young Tofino angler nets top prize at Fish for the Future event

Ten-year-old Tofino local Cohen Ingalls scored tickets to his first Vancouver Canucks game after landing the largest coho at Willie Mitchell’s third annual catch and release Fish for the Future tournament over the weekend of Sept. 20.

Ingalls reeled in a 10.31 lb coho on Saturday that stayed atop the tournament’s overall leaderboard through to Sunday’s closing ceremonies where he was crowned champion.

“I had an idea it was big. It was flopping all over the place,” Ingalls recounted to the Westerly News after receiving his prize. “When I was reeling it in, the fish was jumping up in the air and just giving me a hard time to catch him. But, I eventually got him onto the net and that was really cool. I knew I caught a huge fish.”

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Ucluelet Soapbox derby returns

On Sept. 21, the bottom of Ucluelet’s Bay Street was a high action environment as over 40 youngsters zipped down the pavement in DIY soapbox race cars.

Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noël teamed up with councillor Lara Kemps to rejuvenate this community event they both fondly remember participating in as kids.

“It’s one of those things I always threw around over the last number of years going, ‘Hey you know we should do it’, and then I threw it out towards Lara and I knew she would take it from the concept and actually pushing it to make it happen,” said Noël.

“We used to do this in the seventies. It’s just fun parading down a hill,” said Kemps. “We need to bring these community youth events back as part of our community spirit.”

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Runners brave wet, windy weather for Ucluelet’s 20th Edge to Edge

Twenty years ago, participants in the first-ever Edge-to-Edge Marathon remember enduring horribly wet West Coast weather to cross the finish line.

Thus it was only fitting that, to commemorate its 20th anniversary, the moody coastal skies would dump buckets of rain over the 464 runners during Sunday morning’s soggy half marathon and 10-kilometre races.

Tom Morrison of North Vancouver, a former NCAA athlete and Canadian Junior National champion in the 1,500-metre, led a pack of 262 half marathoners from start to finish.

“Man that was tough. It was good until 16K and then we got hit by the strong wind and rain coming out. It got really tough,” said Morrison, 29, who finished in a winning time of one hour 35 minutes 39 seconds.

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Young filmmakers premiere ‘Finding Solitude’ documentary

A short environmental documentary about saving the alpine, glaciers, and forests on Vancouver Island by young filmmakers Jaiden George and Tristan Hinder-Hohlweg premiered in Tofino and Ucluelet on Nov.16 and Nov.17.

Ucluelet Secondary student Hinder-Hohlweg, 16, and Indigenous artist George, a second year student at Emily Carr University, spent over two years working on the film that takes viewers to some of the most remarkable places on Vancouver Island, including Canada’s highest waterfall Della Falls.

“I really hope people take away that we have to work together in order to collectively achieve a sustainable future. We can’t just make one simple change in our lives. We need to all do it. We can’t be one person, we need everybody to come together and collaborate,” said Hinder-Hohlweg.

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Canadian junior surfer Jasmine Porter wins WSA contest

Tofino surfer Jasmine Porter wrapped up 2019 with a big win down in California.

The 15-year-old Canadian Junior Team member claimed her first major victory at a Western Surfing Association (WSA) Championship Tour stop at the San Clemente Pier on Dec. 7-8.

Porter placed first in the Girls Under-16 shortboard division, out performing 20 young competitors. Her inaugural WSA win came a day after a strong third place finish in the Girls Under-18 shortboard.

“The result was a good way to finish the year. I’m excited to see what happens next,” said Porter, who won bronze in the U18 women’s shortboard at 2019 Rip Curl Nationals.

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