British Columbia

Tofino surfers carry Olympic flame

The west coast Vancouver Island town of Tofino, B.C., has cemented its reputation as the surfing capital of Canada after a weekend of surfing firsts, including a ride in the waves for the Olympic flame.

Local takes upset victory in pro event, another surfing first

Peter Devries of Tofino smashes the lip of a wave during the second round of competition at the O'Neill Cold Water Classic. (Keven Drews/Canadian Press)

The Vancouver Island community of Tofino has cemented its reputation as the surfing capital of Canada after a weekend of firsts, including a ride in the waves for the Olympic flame.

On Saturday, local surfer Peter Devries became the first Canadian to win an Association of Surfing Professionals competition, when he took the title at the Cold Water Classic in front of 2,000 ecstatic fans.

Devries — who rarely competes — was a wild card entry seeded last out of 144 surfers, but he used his experience in the local conditions to rise to the top in a tough field of professionals.

"It's just amazing to see all these guys surfing here, and I can't believe I came out on top with so many incredible surfers up here. It's crazy," said Devries, who was carried from the water on the shoulders of his cheering friends after his final winning run.

Devries humbly accepted the trophy — a traditional native paddle — but said he was glad to win the $20,000 cash prize as well, as he's got a mortgage and a baby on the way.

"Ah, it feels so good, I can't even describe it. I just can't describe it, it's incredible," said Devries.

The Cold Water Classic was one of a series of qualifying events for the World Tour. Similar events are held in Tasmania, South Africa, Scotland and California, but this was a first for Canada.

Olympic torch hangs 10

Then on Sunday evening as the sun was setting, the surfing community had another first when the Olympic flame arrived in town for a twilight surf session.

Hundreds of anti-Olympic activists marched through the rainy streets of Victoria on Friday, briefly disrupting the torch relay. ((CBC))
West Coast surfing pioneer Ruth Sadler, 72, waded into the chilly water carrying a lit Olympic torch, and as professional surfer Raphael Bruhwiler surfed by, she passed the flame to him while hundreds of local residents cheered from the shore.

The flame had already travelled by canoe, rowboat, wheelchair, skateboard, mountain bike, float plane and logging truck on its route up Vancouver Island over the weekend after the torch relay began Friday morning in Victoria.

The torch is scheduled to arrive in Qualicum Beach on Monday morning before making its way to the Canadian Forces Base in Comox and farther up the Island to Campbell River.

From there the flame will head north to Haida Gwaii before leaving for the Yukon, on its 106-day journey across Canada and back for the opening of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver on Feb. 12.

Ruined run restored

A Victoria teen with cerebral palsy is still angry protesters disrupted the torch relay on Friday evening in Victoria.

Nick Dronsfield was unable to carry the torch after police cancelled his leg of the relay because a group of anti-Olympic protesters were planning to blockade the route.

Instead, police used a van to carry the flame around the protesters and resume the run on the other side.

Dronsfield said he's frustrated that he and several other runners missed their chance to run in the relay.

"I think they have the right to protest, but they got in the way of an event which has been planned for several years now.  And as soon as you're disruptive and destructive — and they've admitted that they were — then it's unacceptable," he said.

On Saturday, Dronsfield was given a second chance to run in the torch relay, in Nanaimo.

Organizers have promised to try to find places for the other runners to join the relay.

With files from The Canadian Press