Queen of the Peak co-founder Krissy Montgomery, right, offers her cheery support for young Princess of the Peak surfers Cadence, left, Ava, Jade, and Isla. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino’s Queen of the Peak surf competition fosters youth empowerment

“If I was seven years old and I was watching this, I would be so inspired to get out there.”

The breadth of Canadian women’s surfing was showcased over the weekend of Sept. 28-30 as the 9th annual Queen of the Peak surf event settled in at Cox Bay Beach.

Contest co-founder Krissy Montgomery said the level of competition is just getting higher and higher.

“I remember the first year of the Princess of the Peak [under-16] and it was just kind of a handful of kids getting pushed into waves, and now it’s vicious. They are so talented it’s crazy,” said Montgomery, who owns Tofino’s Surf Sister surf school.

QOP 2018 featured 16 youths in under-16 division, 48 shortboarders, and 48 longboarders. Registration for the longboard division sold out in a record six hours.

Kate Orford, 43, has entered every single QOP since it started in 2009. The Tofino resident has taught surfing all over the world and currently runs the Surf Shack at Pacific Sands.

“Just looking at these girls and watching them shred, they’re going to grow up in a whole different surf world than what we had to grow up in. It’s amazing,” Orford told the Westerly.

When guests ask where her favourite place to surf is, Orford always tells them it’s home.

“It’s not polluted. It’s not gnarly cold, wetsuit development has come so far. So that helps. But more so it’s just the vibe,” explains Orford. “You can go to the beach on your own and you know you will meet someone you know. Someone will high five you, someone will help get you out of your suit if you’re stuck. All of those things happen in this town. I love it.”

Cathy Thicke, 65, started surfing at 50. She recalls a time when they didn’t even make wetsuits for women.

“For the young women of this town [QOP] is a huge inspiration. Where else can you surf in front of all your friends and family? And compete against some of the best women in North America,” said Thicke.

“If I was seven years old and I was watching this, I would be so inspired to get out there. Our kids didn’t have those role models, but now they have them and I think it’s wonderful.”

Leah Dawson, a prolific surfer based on the North Shore of Oahu, said Surf Sister and QOP has broken down a lot of barriers for women.

“The QOP represents everything that I dream for in women’s surfing,” said Dawson, who won the longboard division for the second year in a row.

At the beginning of Sept. 2018, the World Surf League announced that from the 2019 season onwards, male and female surfers would be awarded the same prize money at all WSL controlled competitions.

“I think it’s an amazing step not just for women in surfing, I think it’s an amazing step for women in sport. I saw that there was a couple snowboard contests that already pledged equal pay,” said Dawson.“We’re getting past the better than or less than and just accepting that women are going to surf differently. And we’re celebrating that. Instead of ‘you’re surfing good, but not as good as a guy.’”

Montgomery reiterates.

“I feel so proud to be part of a sport that is that progressive. I think it’s an amazing call on their behalf and I would love to see set a precedent in women’s sport in general,” she said.

Next year will mark the tenth anniversary of the all-women’s surf contest.

“We’ll have a couple extra things up our sleeves for year ten,” Montgomery notes.

Olympic 2020 hopeful Mathea Olin won the 2018 Queen of the Peak shortboard crown. Tofino’s Jasmine Porter,13, capped off a successful Surftember, by winning the Princess of the Peak division. To see heat replays and results from each division, visit: https://www.queenofthepeak.com/watch-live/.

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