April 22nd, 2024

Canadian competitors set for final Olympic surfing qualifier in Puerto Rico

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on February 23, 2024.

Teenager surfer Erin Brooks is shown June 7, 2023, at the ISA World Surfing Games in Surf City, El Salvador, where she won silver in the women's shortboard event, in this handout photo. Brooks who obtained her Canadian citizenship in January 2024, looks to qualify for the Paris Olympics at the ISA World Surfing Games which run Feb. 24 to March 3 in Puerto Rico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Surf Canada, Dom Domic **MANDATORY CREDIT**

Having won her Canadian citizenship battle, teenage surfer Erin Brooks now looks to book her ticket to the Paris Olympics.

Brooks is one of six Canadians competing at the 2024 ISA World Surfing Games, the final Olympic qualifier which opens Saturday and runs through March 3 in Puerto Rico.

Brooks is joined by Tofino, B.C. sisters Sanoa and Mathea Dempfle-Olin.

The Canadian men competing are brothers Cody and Levi Young and Wheeler Hasburgh.

The competitors will surf the reef breaks of Margara and the twin breaks of El Pico and Rastrial in Puerto Rico.

The top eight women will qualify for the Olympics.

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin is already provisionally qualified by virtue of her win at last year’s Pan American Games in Chile. She will make it to the Olympics as long as the other two Canadian women don’t beat her and finish in the top eight.

And the Canadians could qualify all three if they finish as the highest-ranked team.

“We’d be popping bubbly, definitely,” Surf Canada executive director Dom Domic said from Puerto Rico.

The Canadian men need to finish in the top six for Olympic qualification.

“We’ve been here (in Puerto Rico) for a month “¦ We’ve been putting in a lot of preparation here in all conditions and we’re definitely one of the countries to watch,” said Domic.

The Olympic surfing event is set for July 27 to Aug. 4 in Tahiti, French Polynesia.

It marks the second time surfing has been part of the Olympics. Canada did not have a surfer at the Tokyo Olympics although Cody Young came close. The Hawaii-based athlete got a last-minute call-up to the Tokyo games due to a COVID-related opening but was unable to make it to Japan in time to compete.

The 16-year-old Brooks was born in Texas and grew up in Hawaii but has Canadian ties through her American-born father Jeff, who is a dual American-Canadian citizen, and her grandfather who was born and raised in Montreal.

She turned heads by winning a silver medal at the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador last June and gold at the ISA World Junior Championships in June 2022.

Her application for Canadian citizenship was initially rejected. But Immigration Minister Marc Miller had a change of heart after a December ruling by Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice that it is unconstitutional for Canada to deny automatic citizenship to the children of foreign-born Canadians who grew up abroad.

The Brooks family then refiled their application under a hardship status, based on the recommendation of the Immigration Department, to accelerate the process.

Erin Brooks was sworn in as a Canadian citizen last month.

“It’s just (like) having your family back,” Domic said of having Brooks back in the fold. “It was weird not having her at world juniors in Brazil back in November-December and, of course, at the Pan Am Games (in October), as well. Having her back in the family just feels right.”

Brooks’ mother, who has been battling cancer, and her father are with her daughter in Puerto Rico.

The Brooks family home in Lahaina on Maui burned down during last year’s wildfires. The family has called Tofino home when not on the road nine to 10 months a year with their daughter.

Competition in Puerto Rico will be tough. The 266-athlete field features 27 of the 40 Olympians who competed in Tokyo, including women’s gold medallist Carissa Moore (U.S.) and bronze medallist Amuro Tsuzuki (Japan) and men’s silver medallist Kanoa Igarashi (Japan).

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024

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