Here is the Westerly’s ‘Year in Review’ for best sports and arts stories of 2020.
USS Wrestling team takes unique detour around Highway 4 closure to rock Abbotsford tournament
The Ucluelet Secondary School Warriors didn’t let the Jan. 23 rockslide get in their way of reaching the mainland and rocking the Western Canada Age Class wrestling tournament over the weekend as the team took an ocean detour around the highway closure.
“It was a pretty fun weekend actually. We had a good time. It was a bit of an adventure,” the team’s coach Mike Rhodes told the Westerly News. “The kids were awesome. They just rolled with it. They had their floater suits on in the boat and it was part of the adventure. They had a great time.”
“We made the decision to jump in the boat and we took the boat from Ucluelet harbour all the way down to the [Alberni] Harbour Quay and the ADSS team bus met us down at Harbour Quay and we jumped on with them,” he said.
Unphased by their unique commute, the USS team produced solid results with Olivia Rhodes earning gold, Owen Rhodes and Caitlyn Midlane earning silver and Evan Johansen earning a fourth place finish at the Western Canada Age Class tournament in Abbotsford, which featured wrestlers from across B.C. and Alberta.
USS wrestlers earn six medals at Island Championships
The Ucluelet Secondary School Warriors capped off their wrestling season with a strong finish.
The team brought an impressive six medals home from the Island Championships in Nanaimo at the beginning of February with Owen Rhodes, Olivia Rhodes and Krista Wagner earning gold and Elsa Wagner, Abby Titian and Evan Johansen wrestling their way to silver.
“It was a small tournament but there were some very highly contested, competitive matches,” the team’s coach Mike Rhodes.
Maaqtusiis basketball teams impress at Island Championships
Maaqtusiis Secondary School senior boys and senior girls basketball did well at the Vancouver Island Senior A Championships on Feb. 21-22 in Duncan.
The Ahousaht-based female basketball squad placed second out of six teams, giving them an automatic ticket to the best of B.C. basketball tournament. The last time Ahousaht sent a team to Provincials was in 2009.
“They played hard. They came in as the third seed and worked themselves up to second seed and now they have a Provincial berth,” said Maaqtusiis athletic director Cedar Wechlin.
On the boys side, Maaqtusiis placed third out of eight teams in the 2020 Vancouver Island Championships hosted by Nanaimo Christian. They won three of the four games played over the three-day tournament, and travelled back to Ahousaht with the title of Most Sportsmanlike Team.
“It was actually a unanimous vote by all the referees and coaches. When they gave us the award, you could tell they were really honoured to give it to us,” said Wechlin.
Choir conductor launches singing contest
“I am grieving my choir. It’s a big grief,” said Sophie L’Homme over the telephone.
As a self-employed musician, the Tofino and Ucluelet choir conductor and founder of the Tofino Jazz Festival, lost all her income – and gigs – in one momentous sweep when the coronavirus closures stifled the coast.
L’Homme tried to host choir rehearsals over Zoom Video, but it just wasn’t the same.
“Zoom will only pick up the voice of the person talking the loudest and there is a lag,” she says.
To cope her lack of chorus (and the crazy situation the world finds itself in), L’Homme teamed up with Tuff City Radio’s Cameron Dennison to host a singing contest called ‘The West Coast Screech’.
“I’ve been talking about doing something like this with Cameron for a while. Cameron and I are creatively very a like and we always make up weird concepts of radio shows we would do if we had time. And now we have time,” she said.
‘The Screech’ is very much a copycat of the television show ‘The Voice’, noted L’Homme.
Ucluelet mountain bike non-profit takes flight
In the spring of quarantine 2020, the group of local riders behind the once elusive Ucluelet Mountain Bike Association (UMBA) got serious: they incorporated as a non-profit, launched a website, opened a bank account, and secured an insurance policy.
“It seems like the timing is right for everything. It’s surprising how it’s all coming together,” said UMBA president Markus Rannala.
The vision for Ucluelet’s new trail system is to focus on fun, inclusive trails for all riding abilities, notes Rannala.
Yukon’s social media star Gurdeep Pandher visits Vancouver Island
Sending happiness and positivity from Long Beach, near Tofino, of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island. pic.twitter.com/UIyjbm4n6A
— Gurdeep Pandher of Yukon (@GurdeepPandher) August 10, 2020
Yukon-based Bhangra dancer Gurdeep Pandher spent a couple weeks in August touring Vancouver Island, and he brought his 19.5K Twitter followers along for the ride.
A video of Pandher, dancing joyously barefoot on Long Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve was shared by over 500 people and loved by thousands. His dancing tour of the Island garnered so much attention that he was invited to the B.C. Legislature to teach his traditional Punjab dance to Premier John Horgan, Victoria MLAs and staff.
At Ucluelet’s iconic Amphitrite Point Lighthouse last week, Pandher took some time to show Ucluelet councillor and Community Paramedic Rachelle Cole a few moves.
“Through my dance, I am raising awareness to embrace diversity. When I [say] diversity, I mean embracing everyone,” he said.
“I am also trying to add some joy, positivity and happiness with the masses. We can come together and build those cross-cultural bridges. We often fill divided and when we feel divided we go into our own bubbles. I am trying to bring people out of our own bubble so see the bigger picture, we can connect, and we can dance,” said Pandher.
Canada’s top surfers return to competition
On Nov. 3, Surf Canada hosted an invite only surf contest at North Chesterman Beach in Tofino. Dubbed the ‘Rip Curl Hometown Showdown’ marked the first and only competition of the year.
The contest took place subject to District of Tofino restrictions and Covid-19 related policies in B.C. Athletes and essential staff were following strict Safe Return to Sport guidelines and in order to avoid gathering of spectators, Surf Canada did not promote the competition.
“Everyone involved was so fired-up to compete again,” said Dom Domic, executive director of Surf Canada. “I am so stoked to have our National Team back in the ocean competing and staying On Track to Tokyo.”
There were 10 resident National team athletes invited to the contest. The main reason the ‘B Team’ was not invited, notes Domic, was that they had to stay under an eleven person limit. All the participating athletes were under a nondisclosure agreement.
The unique contest format was purposefully designed to stress test the athletes by adding intentional financial incentives to each heat. Mathea Olin and Peter Devries claimed the top spots and $1000 prize purse.
Masso and Wenstob receive 2020 Rainy Coast Arts Award
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers Timothy Masso and Hjalmer Wenstob are co-recipients of the 2020 Pacific Rim Arts Society’s Rainy Coast Arts Award.
Their names are forever connected to a prestigious list of west coast artists, including: Christine Lowther (inaugural Rainy Coast recipient in 2014), Joe Martin (2015), Mark Hobson (2016), Signy Cohen (2017), Joanna Streetly (2018), and Vi Mundy and Jacqueline Chamberland (2019 co-recipients).
“To win the [Rainy Award] is not just an acknowledgement by a small organization on the west coast, but it really speaks to the impact of your endeavour and how much it really is valued by the community. It’s not just a sports days ribbon, I think it really is an acknowledgement of significance,” said past PRAS president Mark Penney during the Nov. 8 AGM via Zoom Video.
For Masso, Penney said he has distinguished himself from a very young age as a champion of Nuu-chah-nulth language throughout the region, Canada and beyond.
Hundreds of lanterns rehomed as Tofino Lantern Festival in flux
A museum of West Coast creativity was disassembled.
Hundreds of hand-crafted paper lanterns accumulated over the past 20 years were rehomed in December as the Tofino Lantern Festival was put on “indefinite hiatus,” according to Raincoast Education Society executive director Mark Maftei.
Maftei told the Westerly News that the festival was extinguished by a “perfect storm” of circumstances, fronted by the Tofino Botanical Gardens being put up for sale and the coronavirus pandemic casting uncertainty around what public gatherings will look like next fall.
“I’d like to think that by September of next year, things will have calmed down and we’ll kind of be back to normal, but there’s a lot of question marks and, in the short-term, the bottom line was we had nowhere to move the lanterns,” Maftei said.
West Coast kids score temporary skating rink
During a Nov. 5 special meeting, Tofino’s municipal council approved a recommendation from their staff to set up a temporary ice-rink in the town’s RV parking lot, adjacent to the municipal hall, in December.
“With many of the usual Tofino winter events not taking place due to COVID-19 related restrictions, there’s not a lot going on in December,” explained Tofino’s manager of public spaces, cultural and visitor initiatives April Froment.
In a written report presented to council, Froment noted that 2020 has been a “unique year,” with cancelled events and social distancing measures dampening the usually vibrant summer season. She added that the town’s tourists have largely chosen to stay near their resorts, rather than venturing into the community’s downtown core.