By: Jackie Connor
Surfing has largely been considered an activity that is seen as ‘counterculture,’ an independent endeavor fundamentally debated on a local and national level for its sport/art form and team-touting potential. Only within the last few decades was it recognized as a sport and now lately, one that belongs in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.
Recently, Paige Alms, two-time big wave world champion and COR Surf team rider, has made inroads towards joining the 2020 Canadian Olympic Surf Team, a roster of six professional men and women Canadian surfers who aim to kick major Olympic bootie. Alms was born in Canada, then bounced to Australia and finally, when she was about nine-years-old, she planted roots on Maui with her mom.
This ain’t Alms’ first competitive rodeo. Throughout her grom years, she participated in the National Scholastic Surfing Association’s events, as well as the World Qualifying Series (WQS) without a full-time sponsor. After years of competitive surfing and subsequently trading the scene for big wave surfing, Alms’ friends and mom encouraged her to rehash her competitive side and try out for the Canadian Olympic Surf team.
“Since the Olympics are going to be hosting surfing for the first time I was like ‘hey! I have a chance [to participate] with the country I was born in,’” said Alms.
The 2018 Surf Canada Nationals event was held at Wickaninnish beach, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, about 45 minutes south of Tofino--Canada’s unofficial surf capital, in one-foot (as Alms puts it) “really hard-to-surf” conditions this past May 4 thru 7.
“It was definitely a pretty big challenge for me to surf in waves I would [ordinarily] never surf in,” said Alms. “But making the final was pretty cool.”
After placing third in the National event, Alms officially began her journey to the 2020 Olympics.
Having built a career around big wave surfing, her path to earning this coveted spot did not require too much alteration in Alms’ big wave training routine. In between rock running, ice baths and gnarly cross-training routines, the only thing remaining would be her small wave game, which she will hone at Maui’s small assortment of beach breaks.
“I feel like [I] competed so much when I was younger that I understand how to compete and how to win heats,” said Alms. “It hasn’t been a part of my life for the past two years, so it’s kind of fun to be able to switch that back on.”
Alms still has set her sights set on maintaining her momentous career in big wave surfing with as much fervor as possible as it is still her primary passion.
“I want to get another Jaws barrel—a bigger, better one,” said Alms. “I would also really like to go to some lesser known places and kind of make an adventure out it rather than just get the surf.”
A third big wave world title is not out of the question for Alms.
For the Olympics, Alms’ journey to qualify is not quite over yet. This September, she will compete in the International Surfing Association/International Olympic Committee’s games in Japan as well as the Pan American games in Lima, Peru this December to further qualify.
“Surfing is such a small sport compared to a lot of these other sports,” said Alms. “I think it’s going to be really exciting for these athletes to showcase what they can do and have their sport recognized at a professional level on the world stage—I think that it’s going to be really cool.”