Recognized for decades of volunteering, coaching, and championing, pioneer wake surfer and Fernie local, Caroline Villeneuve, is the first woman to ever receive the Competitive Wake Surf Association’s (CWSA) Legend Award. The distinction, presented to Villeneuve at the CWSA’s Centurion World Wake Surfing Championships in October, honours those who have significantly contributed to the sport whether it be as an athlete, coach, or volunteer. “I’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours volunteering over the past 14 years, so to be recognized is super cool,” said Villeneuve, who has competed all over the world from Japan to Russia, Europe and all over North America.
Born in Quebec, Villeneuve began wake surfing in 2006 and competing in 2007 – long before the sport reached the popularity it has today.
“I started to compete just for fun, because I started very late, in my twenties,” said Villeneuve.
Originally a wake boarder, she entered her first competition in the expert category, and by her second competition was consistently finishing at the top.
“There was nobody good at it then, it was so new,” said Villeneuve, who has seen the sport wildly progress since she began.
“At the time, people didn’t even know what wake surfing was, and for those who did know, tossing the rope was the best trick and that was it.”
Moving to British Columbia in 2009, Villeneuve brought her passion for wake surfing with her, starting a wake surfing school on Lake Koocanusa in 2011. Dubbed H20 School Ltd., the company has been offering both competitive and recreational wake surfing lessons for the past 10 years. “When I moved here, the first year I didn’t surf because I didn’t have a boat, so (starting that school) was the best way – slash only way – I could afford a boat,” said Villeneuve.
Realizing there were no wake surfing competitions in Alberta or British Columbia at the time, Villeneuve began the Rocky Mountain Wakesurfing Association in 2012, to bring competitive wake surfing events to the Elk Valley.
Villeneuve soon after kicked off Canada’s first ever World Series of Wake Surfing event, the Koocanusa Wakesurfing Challenge.
“That’s when I opened the door (for wake surfing competitions) in the valley and western Canada, and from there it’s just snowballed,” said Villeneuve.
Besides her contributions as a surfer and coach, Villeneuve also sat on the CWSA’s board for seven years, as their first non-American member. However, Villeneuve’s biggest contribution to date occurred in 2015, when she co-created the World Ranking System that is currently used to score riders during competition.
Despite Villeneuve’s competitive career beginning to slow down, her coaching career is now picking up as she strives to encourage more British Columbian youth to get involved with wake surfing through Water Ski and Wakeboarding BC.
“Coaching is just in my genes, it’s always what I’ve done,” said Villeneuve. “When my students compete I’m 10 times more nervous than when I compete. You’ll see me running on shore, screaming, clapping my hands. I come back from competitions and I have no voice.”
For more information on the H2O School Ltd., how to get involved, or to purchase gift certificates, visit their website.