A young athlete from Tofino, B.C., will be the first Canadian to compete in Olympic surfing.
Sanoa Dempfle-Olin, 18, made history Monday when she provisionally qualified for the 2024 games by reaching the finals of the Pan American Games in Chile.
Dempfle-Olin subsequently snagged the silver medal in women’s shortboard.
“It’s almost hard to remember, it kind of still feels surreal, just every moment and every wave that came through I just felt very alert and in tune with the ocean,” Dempfle-Olin told Global News by phone from Chile.
“At the end as the time started counting down and I realized the heat was over and I was winning it — I just had a moment and got kind of overwhelmed with emotions, filled with happiness because something I dreamed of my whole life was official and came true.”
Mathea Olin, Dempfle-Olin’s older sister, described the historic qualification as “pretty unbelievable.”
“I almost wasn’t sleeping all last night. Woke up, her heat was at 6:20 a.m., it was dark out, we watched the heat, and deep down I had a feeling she was going to make the heat and win the spot — but you never know,” she said.
“It was a very big, stormy day, and it could have gone either way, that heat, and it just happened that she got two waves in 20 minutes that day and made it happen.”
Surfing made its Olympic debut in the 2020 summer games in Tokyo, without any Canadian competitors.
While the 2024 games are in Paris, the surfing component will be held at the island of Tahiti in French Polynesia, where Olin said the entire family will travel to support Dempfle-Olin.
“She texted me, right after she got her spot. She had to surf in the gold medal match after that so I told her to stay focused and tonight give me a call on the phone, but I think she was just really in the moment and trying to take it all in and just enjoy it because she definitely earned it,” Olin said.
“At the end of the day, for us, we know how amazing she is whether she won an Olympic spot or not, so we are just here to support her and cheer her on and just love her because she is so amazing in every way.”
Olin, who is also a surfer, won a bronze medal at the Pan Am Games in Peru in 2019.
She said her sister’s win has helped further prove Canadian surfers can compete at an elite level.
“Hopefully (it will) just inspire more Canadian local girls and boys just to keep dreaming and achieve their dreams,” she said.
Dempfle-Olin said the moment was “huge” for the Canadian surfing community, and said she was thrilled to be able to progress in the steps of those who came before her.
“There has been fabulous surfers who have come from Tofino and Canada before who I got to look up to my whole life,” she said.
“I just feel really grateful, and feel super proud of myself and grateful for my team and my family and everyone who has supported me. I’m just excited to see where everything goes.”
Dempfle-Olin won her semifinal heat 10-4.20 over Leilani McGonagle of Costa Rica. She was beaten 12.33-10.13 by Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb for gold in the final.
Dempfle-Olin’s Olympic qualification is provisional upon her competing in the 2024 ISA World Surfing Games in Puerto Rico.
— with files from the Canadian Press