Tofino surfer Mathea Olin looks strong as she paddles out at her home break at the north end of Cox Bay on a drizzly Saturday in December.
The 14-year-old Tokyo 2020 Olympic hopeful effortlessly punches through walls of whitewater, navigating herself into position to catch a head high green wave out back.
In minutes, she catches the first clean wave that rolls towards her and beautifully executes a powerful snap manoeuvre on its open face. Like a snowboarder carving powder, a flash of spray projects above her head.
“My main focus is definitely shortboard. I love longboards and literally will only longboard like 10-times a year, so I kind of just hop on a longboard a couple times before a comp,” said Olin.
Most recently, her free and organic approach to longboard competition earned the young athlete a gold medal at the Pan American Surfing Games in Peru at the beginning of month.
“I was up against a three-time world champion. I was like, I’m probably not going to win so I’m just gonna go out there and have fun longboarding and try new stuff,” she recalls.
“I was so lucky to have it. I was stoked before I even finished the wave.”
Surf Canada president Dom Domic was in Peru for the event.
“She had all the competitors area standing on their feet and cheering and chanting 10!10!10! Canada, Canada… over and over. It was such a pure moment of sporting magic,” said Domic.
A couple days prior to winning the longboard title, Olin picked up a bronze medal in the women’s open shortboard division.
“Mathea winning the bronze was the first surf medal for Canada in international competition,” Domic told the Westerly.
Olin’s support system runs deep. Her main surf coach is Christian Moutinho from Victoria and when she’s in Kauai, Russell Lewis provides coaching. Randy Celebrini is her personal trainer and physiotherapist in Tofino.
“Pete Devries has been mentoring me quite a bit too,” Olin said.
There’s also her training partner and younger sister, Sanoa, nipping at her heels. Sanoa, who made history in May by being the youngest competitor to win the Rip Curl Pro title, placed 10th in the women’s shortboard division in Peru.
Canada ranked fourth out of 15 nations that competed in the Pan American Games. Argentina placed third, Brazil second, and Peru ranked first.
According to Domic, Mathea’s win gives her momentum going into next year’s ‘do or die’ PanAm 2019 qualifier at the same locale.
“The Olympic pathway has not be determined at this time, but the IOC will have it by March 2018,” said Domic.
Olin is currently preparing for a number of different International Surfing Association competitions and World Surf League junior qualifying series.
“I hope this medal is the first of many,” she said. “I wanna say thanks to my family, all my sponsors, and the whole entire community here for supporting me.”