Shoulder high breaking waves welcomed female surf contestants at Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica on Dec 4.
“The waves were super fun and rippable,” said Sitka Surf Team rider Leah Oke who at the age of 26, has already conquered 30 contests such as the World Surfing Games in Panama, Rip Curl Stew in Tofino and winning the Clean Water Classic four years in a row.
In 2011 Oke graced the first women’s cover of SBC Surf. Over 12 years have passed since Oke began surfing competitively.
“I started playing in the surf as soon as I could walk and could stand on a board by the time I was six,” said Oke during a Sitka magazine interview. One of Canada’s top female surfers, Oke has become a local legend in communities such as Sooke and Port Renfrew having grown up on the wild rugged coast of Sombrio Beach.
This particular surf contest in Central America featured 15 girls from different countries.
“It felt awesome to win this contest with so many good surfers from all over competing,” she said.
Oke felt confident with her surfing that day but said, “it’s always hard to know who is winning when you’re in the water.”
Concentrating on her own waves, it’s difficult to see how the other girl’s waves are at the same time she explained.
“So you never know, I was definitely stoked on the win.”
Oke loves the wildness of the West Coast back home but Panama has its definite benefits.
“The thing I love most about here is the warm water and the lack of crowds,” she said.
Costa Rica surf is well known for holding down swimmers and surfers alike but so far Oke has not had any issues, “there’s definitely some heavy hold downs when the swell gets bigger but so far I haven’t surfed anything that held me down long enough that I was scared,” she said.
Oke, a fiery 5’8 redhead, prefers to ride barrels over airs and one of her favourite places to surf is Hawaii. Her travel surf destinations include Mexico, Indonesia, Portugal, Brazil and now Costa Rica and Panama. Along with being on the Sitka Surf Team she’s also sponsored by Rip Curl, Nixon Watches and Electric Eyewear.
As for her surfing skills, Oke continues to improve and challenge herself and has become a real surfing inspiration for various local female surfers on Vancouver Island.
“I feel like my surfing is definitely progressing here and surfing with better surfers than myself is definitely helping to push my surfing to the next level,” she said.