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Tofino becomes training ground for Canadian surfers hoping to make Olympic debut

Global News logo Global News 2019-02-21 Kylie Stanton and Sean Boynton
a group of people walking on a beach: Surfers head out to catch the waves in Tofino. © Global News Surfers head out to catch the waves in Tofino.

One of the world's most renowned surfing destinations has become a training ground for a new crop of Olympic hopefuls.

Canadian athletes are in Tofino preparing for a national event in May in order to qualify for the World Championships. It will be that performance that could earn them a spot in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, where surfing will make its Olympic debut alongside skateboarding, sport climbing, karate, baseball, and softball.

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"Japan decided that they wanted it," said Surf Canada President Dom Domic. "In just over 500 days, the eyes of the world are going to be on surfing."

READ MORE: 5 sports heading to Tokyo 2020 that won’t be at Rio 2016

Surfers who have arrived to brave the chilly waters say they can't believe a shot at Olympic glory would ever be in reach for them.

"I didn't think the Olympics would ever be a thing," said surfer Noah Cohen. "There was never even like a dream. To even have like a sliver of hope is a pretty amazing thing."

The road to get there won't be easy. Despite what people may think, the talent pool among Canadian surfers, including those living aboard, is huge.

Cohen said he hopes to be among those who helps put Canadian surfing on the map in Tokyo.

"I try not to look too far ahead, but at the same time it's pretty impossible not to visualize that coming through," he said. "To think that I could put a maple leaf on my chest and go do it would be pretty amazing."

Tofino is the only spot in Canada where surfers can chase the waves year-round. Several Olympic hopefuls will be training there in the lead up to the games.​

A chance to showcase surfing on the world stage would be a major win for the sport, especially after proving it can be done – and done well – here on the west coast of Canada.

READ MORE: Tokyo Olympics: Costs hit almost $25 billion, may go higher

"Definitely going to put it on the map, for sure," said surfer Michael Darling. "The level of sport in surfing now has come up so much and the level of athleticism too."

The exposure is only expected to help promote the program for the future, to the point where surfers, no matter how little, can have big Olympic dreams.

"2024 is just around the corner," said Cohen. "If we can start carving that pathway for the younger generation, then we've already succeeded."

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