Local wakesurfer, Caroline Villeneuve, has had her biggest year ever, and is gearing up to head to the World Wakesurfing Championships to be held in Las Vegas in September.
Villeneuve, from Elko, won first place in the Women’s Pro Skim Division in Sacramento, California, in June, finally beating her nemesis, five times world champion, Bri Chmel.
She also beat her in the World Series of Wakesurfing in Calabogie, Ontario, last month.
Villeneuve said beating Chmel has given her the boost she needs to have a good chance at becoming world champion.
“It really meant a lot to beat her finally,” she said. “Particularly because she has eight to 12 months practising in California, and I have such a short season up here.
“This year I really have a chance for a world title, which I haven’t before,” she said.
“I feel that this is my year!”
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 her own pro model board made my one of her sponsors, Inland Surfer, that has sold out from the warehouse. “You can buy it in stores, but the warehouse is out of them,” she said.
Her other sponsors include Centurion boats, Wake Shredder clothing, Sunshine Houseboats in Koocanusa and Board Stiff in Fernie.
“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 is now training hard for the World WakeSurfing Championships next month.
“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 organizes the World Series event at Lake Koocanusa every year. This year it was on August 9 to 11, and she placed first in skim and second in surf.
“I was so busy organizing it all,” she said. “But it went off really well. I got a lot of good comments.”
Villeneuve runs her own school, to introduce kids to wakeboarding, wakesurfing and wakeskating at Lake Koocanusa. The H20 School gives her a chance to coach, which she is passionate about.
“I love coaching,” she said. “I also travel a lot to coach, which is great because then I can learn from other people. Here it is mostly beginners.”
She also teaches swimming in the winter.
Another local wakesurfer, Emily Agate, is also heading to the Worlds, but she will be competing in the Outlaw division, which is one below the Pros.
For more information go to www.h2oschoolbc.com