British Columbia

Vancouver para surfer wins 3rd straight world championship title

Victoria Feige won gold in the kneel division while Parksville's Trevor Hirschfield, captain of Canada's wheelchair rugby team, made his competitive surfing debut.

Physiotherapist Victoria Feige captured gold again at the International Surfing Assoc. World Championships

Vancouver's Victoria Feige is a three-time para surfing world champion. (submitted by Sean Evans)

Victoria Feige figures the hours spent at Kits Pool improving her duck dives and paddling is one secret in her para surfing success. 

Relocating in October from Vancouver to Hawaii — more specifically to the surfing mecca of Oahu's North Shore —  also helped up her game, which was on full display at the 2021 International Surfing Association Para World Championships in Pismo Beach, Calif., last week where Feige won gold for a third straight year.

"I'm so incredibly happy," she said, speaking from Hawaii. "I've really been pushing my surfing ... and knew if I put together two decent waves I had a really good chance."

World championship number three in the women's kneel division ties Feige for the most world titles won in para surfing history.

Fellow Vancouverite Ling Pai also brought home a medal from California, finishing third in the visually impaired division.

Team Canada para surfer Trevor Hirschfield is also captain of the national wheelchair rugby team. (Submitted by ISA/benreedphoto@gmail.com)

Parksville, B.C, surfing newbie Trevor Hirschfield, wound up 17th in the prone division. 

If the name sounds familiar, it should.

Hirschfield is captain of the Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Team and a two-time Paralympic Games medallist. 

"Rugby is still my number one sport," said Hirschfield. "But going to the para [surfing] world championships and, for lack of a better term, getting my ass handed to me, made me a little more hungry to get better at the sport."

Hirschfield says there are challenges to growing para surfing. For instance, athletes in his category need assistance to catch a wave and again at the finish, and that means training volunteers. In Tofino, where he learned to surf, there's no formal adaptive program in place yet.

Trevor Hirschfield would love nothing better than to compete in both wheelchair rugby and surfing at the 2028 Los Angeles Paralympic Games. (Kevin Light Photography)

Still, within the para surfing community, there's talk of the sport being added to the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of surfing, which made its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020.

That's got Hirschfield daring to dream about wearing Canadian colours in both sports at the 2028 Paralympics.

Canadian para surfing team, from left to right: Pascale Martineau, Jane Bigmore, Chris Oberle, Ling Pai, Nathan Smid, Trevor Hirschfield, Albie Sears, Victoria Feige, Ryan Eick, Scott Patterson, Cameron Gee, Lisa Franks. (Submitted by Victoria Feige)

"I mean, that would be amazing, to go and compete in surfing as well as wheelchair rugby," he said. 

Feige, who is notable in her professional career as the first North American clinical physiotherapist who uses a wheelchair, also sees a Paralympic future for para surfing.

She came to the sport from an active and thrill-seeking youth in snowboarding, skateboarding and soccer. 

At 18, her T-12 vertebrae was crushed attempting to land a big air snowboard jump. She tried adaptive skiing and played wheelchair basketball for a time, but in 2016 was captivated by the burgeoning world of para surfing.

Victoria Feige and team celebrate victory at the International Surfing Association World Para Championships in Piso Beach, California. (Cameron Bloom photography)

"I met people from all over the world — Australia, South Africa — who were incredible surfers, doing cut-backs, getting barrelled, there was this one guy on a wave ski who could do airs. It completely changed what I thought was possible for adaptive surfing. And it changed what was possible for me," she said.

Feige said "bleak times" during the pandemic sparked her to reorganize her life around surfing. Two months after moving to Hawaii, and another world title to her name, there's no looking back. 

"The waves here are incredible and I'm managing to get so much better," she said.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now