Local wakesurfer, Caroline Villeneuve can be seen carving up an inland wave at Lake Koocanusa this summer, in training for the World Wakesurfing championships to be held in September.
Villeneuve, from Elko, came home recently with a silver medal after competing in the Women’s Open Skim Division of the North West Wakesurfing Championships in Seattle at Lake Sammamish.
Villeneuve said wakesurfing is a relatively new sport in the Kootenays but it is growing each summer in popularity. “Wakesurfing is different to wakeboarding because the surfer trails behind an inboard ski boat, surfing the boat’s wake without being directly attached to the boat. The wake from the boat mimics the look and feel of an actual ocean wave.”
Wakesurfing works best with a ballasted wake boat, at relatively slow speeds (around 9 to 14mph). Surfers use a tow rope to pull themselves out of the water, and ride a specially designed wake surf board. Wake surfers let go of the rope and free ride, using the wave to help them do tricks.
Villeneuve has a Centurion boat which is perfectly designed to pull the wakesurfer. “The size and weight of the boat creates a big wave. Water bags are placed at the back of the boat to weigh it down on one side, creating a really long and consistent wave,” she said.
“I started competing in wakeboarding competitions in Quebec, but I was older than most of the girls competing. I decided to switch to wakesurfing because it is fairly new, and I started competing in 2007,” said Villeneuve.
Villeneuve went on to become the Quebec Champion in 2009 and won gold at the North West Wakesurfing Championships in the same year. She repeated the victory in 2010, also placing fourth in the US Nationals that year.
Villeneuve said the sport has become more recognized in the last few years. “In 2009 I was the only girl registered in the Open Category and had to compete with girls in the Amateur division. In 2010 there were two competitors but this year there were enough girls to compete in both the skim and surf categories of wakesurfing.”
“This year I was up against good riders and I was happy to place second at the NWWSA championships. I competed against the world champion in wakesurfing and was pleased just to make it into the final.”
Villeneuve is now training hard for the World WakeSurfing Championships next month and is hoping to place in the top five.
“I have less than a minute from start to finish, to perform as many tricks as possible. My strength is switch riding; riding on my heels with my back to the wave and then switching to the other side on my toes. I can do the switch 360, the 540 spin and the 720 which is two turns.”
Villeneuve started her own school in January to introduce kids to wakeboarding, wakesurfing and wakeskating. “While most kids begin with wakeboarding, after being in the boat during a wakesurf run they are keen to try it as well,” she said.
Villeneuve is running one day and week long camps during summer at Gold Bay at Lake Koocanusa. The camps are aimed at giving people the opportunity to try a number of different water sports as well as providing tuition in swimming and certification for operating a leisure craft.
Another local wakesurfer, Brittney Nyrose, recently competed for the first time at NWWSA and won silver in the Women’s Amateur Division. Brittney is from Lethbridge and wakesurfs at Tie Lake during the summer.
For more information go to www.h2oschoolbc.com