Road to 2024 Summer Olympics has already begun for surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin

Road to 2024 Summer Olympics has already begun for surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin
THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Marcus Paladino/Red Bull Content Pool
Sanoa Dempfle-Olin of Tofino, B.C., shown in a handout photo, became the first Canadian to ever qualify for the Olympics in surfing last month at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Every athlete that qualified for the Olympics at last month’s Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, got a ceremonial ticket to Paris for the 2024 Summer Games.

Canadian surfer Sanoa Dempfle-Olin has been so busy that she hasn’t had the time to even frame hers.

Dempfle-Olin became the first ever Canadian to earn an Olympic berth in surfing by reaching the Pan Am women’s final on Oct. 30, where she earned a silver medal, losing out to Brazil’s Tatiana Weston-Webb. The 18-year-old returned home to Tofino, B.C., for four days where she was celebrated by friends and family, before returning to competition in the International Surfing Association.

“They gave me two tickets, a paper one and then a foam one a little bit later,” said Dempfle-Olin. “I didn’t have time to decorate too much but the foam one was on my bookshelf and then the paper one I have on the wall by my bed, but it’s not framed yet. I just slid it into like the light socket right now.

“I’ll find a find a better place for it once I get home.”

READ MORE: ‘Dream come true’: Tofino teen is first-ever Canadian to qualify for Olympic surfing

Dempfle-Olin (pronounced DEM’-flee oh-lin) was only home briefly before going to Jacksonville, Fla., for the Super Girl Surf Pro festival, then directly to Santa Cruz, Calif., for the O’Neill Cold Water Classic, an event on the World Surfing League’s qualifying series schedule.

She will compete in the International Surfing Association’s world junior championship in Rio de Janeiro starting Thursday.

“It’s crazy that (the Pan Ams) was almost a month ago now,” said Dempfle-Olin during some downtime in Rio. “I’ve been so busy since then and gone on so many trips so every time I have a moment like today, when I have some time to chill and think and decompress I feel like it’s still sinking in.”

That pace won’t let up ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Her Olympic qualification is still provisional upon her competing in the 2024 ISA World Surfing Games in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Feb. 22-March 2 because, theoretically, two other Canadian athletes could claim the country’s berth for the Olympics.

She also plans to keep competing on the pro circuit and, ideally, make at least two trips to Tahiti in French Polynesia, which will serve as the host venue for surfing during the Summer Games.

Dempfle-Olin said that there were two main things she has to do to prepare for the Olympics.

“One would be going to Tahiti and training at that wave prior to the event, so I’m definitely going to try and get a trip in there,” she said. “Then make sure I’m there for about a month before the contest.

“Then my equipment, making sure that I am getting lots of all the boards that I’ll need and having waves that can test them on that are similar to the waves that we’ll be competing on in the Olympics.”


Dom Domic, the executive director of Surf Canada, said that the waves at the Olympic venue in Tahiti will be challenging for all of the athletes competing in the Games this summer, so getting Dempfle-Olin familiar with them will be invaluable. That includes consulting with local surfers who have an intimate knowledge of the area’s breaks and eddies.

“It is one of the more potentially dangerous waves on the planet, depending on what the conditions are like,” said Domic, who is also in Rio de Janeiro. “Getting as much knowledge around the reef, where to sit, positioning, what to do, which waves to identify, which waves to go for, which ones not to go for.

“That’s why we’re putting in a lot of time there. That expert local knowledge is going to come into play.”

It’s also important for Dempfle-Olin, or any other Canadian surfer who qualifies for the Olympics, to get acclimated to life in Tahiti. That includes overcoming jet lag and getting used to local food.

“We have to adapt to the local diet because we have to adapt to the local waves, adapt to the local climate, atmospheric conditions, water, everything else,” said Domic. “It’s the person that’s able to adapt quickest and optimized that is going to be the most successful.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2023.

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