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Monday, September 15 2014 @ 08:52 PM EDT

Finding passion in the waves

Sports Section By Pirjo Raits - Sooke News Mirror - Leah Oke: One of Canada’s best surfers. The powerful waves at Sombrio Beach cradled Leah Oke in their swells, nurturing the young surfer and pushing her until she became one of Canada’s top female surfers. Leah is one of several surfing children of the Oke clan. She spent her young life at Sombrio Beach with the beckoning waves at the doorstep of her home. For 16 years, the Oke family held court on one of the most beautiful surfing beaches in Canada. In 1997 the province forced the legal and non-legal squatters off the property and turned it into Juan de Fuca Provincial Park. “It was definitely a cool spot to grow up, but I’m glad we got out when we did, it was life in a fishbowl,” said Oke of her years at Sombrio. Now 24-years-old, Oke is ranked as one of the top three female surfers in Canada, travelling far and wide to catch the waves. She said she started surfing at about six-years-of-age and has been surfing ever since. “Being on the water and in the ocean calms me, rejuvenates me,” said Oke. Being a professional surfer is hard work, especially in Canada which is not really known as an international surfing capital like Hawaii or Australia. The biggest and best waves are in the winter, a time when only the most passionate head for Sombrio, Jordan River or Tofino. “We have good waves here,” she said. “They are the same waves as Hawaii, although they are sheltered in the strait.” In the summer local surfers head for the tropics. (more)

Oke went to Mexico last summer and to Portugal for the World Surfing Games. The games had surfers from 32 different countries competing and Oke ranked 26 or 27th.

Traveling to such far flung places is expensive and no professional athlete can do it on their own. Oke has a number of sponsors and supporters, including Jennifer Graham from Salts Studio Boutique on Otter Point Road. Graham donated a percentage from her clothing sales to finance and help Oke travel to the Volcom Qualifying World Championships.

She has other sponsors too and they pay for a few trips a year, but Oke still has to hold down a job. She said Victoria’s Sitka Surfboards, Rip Curl and Nixon Watch Co., all help pay for trips and the thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it if I didn’t get that,” said Oke.

Oke has been to a lot of beaches and has entered a lot of competitions. Last year she went to Washington and won the Clean Water Classic for the fourth year in a row. She won the Rip Curl Stew in Tofino in June, which was the biggest contest ever held in Canada.

At the beginning of September Oke is planning a trip to Panama with the top surfers from the West Coast and a photographer. There’s also the September Storm Session in Halifax, where she took second place in women’s professional two years ago.

Oke has seen a lot of changes since she began surfing so many years ago, then there were about five women surfers on the West Coast and now there are hundreds.

For years Oke taught surfing to the Pacheedaht kids in Port Renfrew but had to beg off for a while in order to travel for surfing. But she has a plan in the works and is excited at the prospect of working with the Power to Be program.

The Port Renfrew Health and Social Services Society may be interested in carrying on the surfing program for the kids.

“We need time to organize a plan. Lots of people are donating old equipment,” she said.

Pacheedaht means, “People of the sea foam” and if Oke has her way, the bright young surfers will be living up to their name — surfing in the sea foam.

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Finding passion in the waves
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, August 27 2009 @ 08:53 AM EDT

who cares????