For local Leah Oke, a life-long surfing enthusiast and professional surfer, playing in the water always felt natural and quite a bit of fun — but that passion has taken her further than just playing in the sand, or floating around in a donut.
In fact, she’s one of Canada’s most successful surfing athletes, with several competitions under her belt (or board). And she’s still at it, having won third place in the Women’s Longboard surfing competition in Tofino.
She also came fourth place overall in the short boarding, the Pro Women section of the competition, all of which took place between May 30 and May 31 at the 2015 ninth-annual Rip Curl Pro Tofino Surf Championship. The event took place in Cox Bay, Tofino B.C.
Impressively-enough, Oke said she barely surfed prior to the competition, yet still managed to take home two awards.
“For me, it was just nice to surf again. I haven’t surfed in a while, I only surfed twice a month before the competition,” Oke said, adding that there aren’t that many waves on the southern part of the Island. “That was my highlight; to be able to surf a lot in a short period of time.”
She said that while it was nice to bring some winning cash home with her, it was also a whole lot of fun just to be around people who were just as passionate about surfing as she was.
“It’s one time of the year when we all get together and hang out at the beach and surf, and watch our friends surf and just have a good time,” Oke said.
The Canadian surfing championship annually attracts all the best surfers around, both nationally and internationally; notably people from California and Australia.
Oke, who’s been surfing for 24 years, said being in the water was something that always felt natural to her.
“My family, my dad and my older brothers and sisters were all into it, started very young and I lived right on the beach, so I was always playing in the water,” she said.
Originally from the Sombrio Beach area, Oke moved to Port Renfrew with her family when she was just a teenager. Despite that, she continued pursuing her passion of surfing those clear blue waves. The next surfing competition Oke said she’ll be taking part in is Queen of the Peak, an all-girls surfing event which takes place at the beginning of October.
“It’s one of the biggest surfing events in North America, so there’s a bunch of girls who come down for that from all over, it’s a lot of fun,” she said.
After that, Oke said she’ll be heading back to Panama, where she spends most of her time.