Forget Bikinis, Boardshorts and Flipflops: Queen of the Peak is not your average surf contest

Originally published on October 1, 2013 on LATER.


Photos Kyler Vos

Now in its fourth year, the Queen of the Peak surf championship held in Tofino, BC has grown into a two-day event with approximately 100 competitors. The championship, sponsored by Billabong and The Wickanininnish Inn, includes shortboard and longboard categories, and for the first time, a Princess of the Peak division for under 16s. This year’s all women’s surf contest takes place on October 5 and 6, 2013, at either Cox Bay or Chesterman Beach—depending on wave conditions.

Competitors vie for cash and prizes during 20 minute heats, in 11-13° water. First place in the shortboard category wins $1500. Top prize in the Longboard category is a new longboard donated by local Tofino shaper Stefan Aftanas and a one night’s stay night at the Wickanininish Inn.

The original idea for the Queen of the Peak came four years ago, after a conversation between Krissy Montgomery, owner of Surf Sister surf school, and Mike Jacobsen, manager of Shelter Restaurant. When Mike asked, “Is the female surf community upset that they aren’t able to participate in the Oneill Cold Water Classic (a WQS event that came to Tofino in 2009/2010)”, Krissy replied, “Women [in surfing] are used to being sidelined.” Mike wondered, “What could we do to change that?” Krissy said, “We could make women feel included in the local contest by celebrating and showcasing the number of amazing female surfers in the area.”


“The judges will be looking for a variety of things, but it kind of breaks down into a few categories: speed, power, flow, variety of maneuvers, difficulty of maneuvers and how critical the maneuver is. If you put it all on the line and pull off a powerful, progressive maneuver you will be rewarded. The judging is modelled after the ASP format, which is kind of the world wide standard.” Mike said.

“The vibe of this contest is what really makes it special. Often you’ll see competitors hugging and cheering each other on. It really pulls the surf community together,” Krissy added. “The level of local talent keeps rising every year. The Queen of the Peak has had a different winner each year, so the finals should be spectacular as its anyone’s game.”

Some of the surfers to watch for this year include: Leah Oke from Port Renfrew; Hannah Scott, a local Tofino girl and employee at Surf Sister; Cath Bruhwiler, a born and raised Tofino local; and Tamarah Stevens who always makes it into the finals.

Event organizers, Krissy and Mike, have designed the Queen of the Peak with females in mind—offering free childcare, dog sitting, and complimentary massage and chiropractic services for competitors.


Other Queen of the Peak events include a wine and cheese welcome reception at Surf Sister and a Billabong surf movie night at Shelter Restaurant. The highlight of the event will be an awards gala with a multi-course dinner at Shelter Restaurant.

All proceeds from the Queen of the Peak are donated to Keep a Breast Canada, whose mission is to help eradicate breast cancer by exposing young people to methods of prevention, early detection and support.

“Each year our goal for the Queen of the Peak is to make everything a little bigger and a little better. We are working on getting better prizes for the contestants and on spreading the word about the event in order to boost tourism during what would normally be a quiet time for Tofino.”

For more information about Queen of the Peak

For travel and accommodation during Queen of the Peak contact Tourism Tofino

For free help and advice on planning or booking a vacation in BC contact Destination British Columbia at

Queen of the Peak poster 2013

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Ice Sculptures in Banff National Park – Ice Magic Festival 2013

Photos by Desiree Bilon

Although the Ice Magic Festival is over for this year, the ice carvings are still on display – until they melt.


A few weekends ago, I piled into a car with my Mom, my brother Brett, his wife Lauren, and their daughter Aveya. We left early and drove to Lake Louise for the Ice Magic Festival that takes place during Banff National Park’s SnowDays – a month-long winter celebration. Now in its 19th year, the Banff National Park has added an additional weekend of ice sculpting magic for the “Little Chippers”, January 26th-27th.


The first weekend, January 18th-20th, was the official International Ice Carving Competition Weekend. This year’s theme was “Carve a Song”.

Hosted by The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, this 34-hour competition is the most anticipated spectacle of the Festival. 24 internationally recognized professional ice-carvers work in teams of two to sculpt towering, one-of-a-kind works of art from imposing blocks of solid ice on the shores of Lake Louise. With each ice block weighing a daunting 300lbs, this exceptional art form involves grueling physical labour in a delicate balancing act with precision artistry.


We were lucky to see an ice sculptor in action. He wielded a tool that looked like a chainsaw with some special slender attachment. As he carved into the block of ice, tiny frozen splinters shot a few feet into the air, producing a miniature snowstorm.

The cold was too much for me. I wished that I had worn a snowsuit, like Aveya, my 22 month old niece. That way, I could drop onto the ground and make snow angels beside her. After 15 minutes of strolling around the sculptures we ventured in for some hot food. Next year we plan to bring a sled to pull Aveya around in, and I will bring my snowsuit.


Results from the International Ice Carving Competition:

1st Place: Team Chris & Victor – Run through the Jungle

2nd Place: Team GB – I’m Your Puppet

3rd Place: Team Scott & Ross – Sound of an Angel

People’s Choice: Team Chris & Victor – Run through the Jungle

Carver’s Choice: Team Sakha Ice Art 2 – Song of White Cranes

Fairmont’s Choice: Team Dream Team – Melody of the Wind

Children’s Choice: Team Krusty Ice – Ewe make me feel like dancing


For more information:

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Happy New Year 2013 – From Joshua Tree National Park

My brother Troy referred to the rental car as The Skateboard. For example, “Where did we park The Skateboard?”  This small, green-gold car got us to where we wanted to go – Joshua Tree National Park.


The trees right behind us in the photo below are Joshua trees. They look nothing like the ones that I remember seeing in the desert nearly a decade ago, when I drove down to Mexico for the first time. My brother assured me they are baby Joshua trees; they are not yet fully grown.


It was 2:15 in the afternoon by the time we started the hike. The air was cold, but nothing compared to Calgary. I was so excited to just be outside, walking around. I had hardly left the house while I was in Calgary over Christmas.


“How would you like to get one of those prickly things in your Christmas stocking next year, Brother?” I started laughing.

“Very funny, Sister,” he said sarcastically.


After an hour or so of walking along the sandy trail, I said, “I need a rest.”

The hike wasn’t that strenuous, but I get tired easily these days because of my injured leg.

We pulled our water bottles from our packs and found some rocks big enough to sit on.


“Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?” I asked.

“Yeah, to travel more and to develop my sense of intuition,” he said.

“I just read this article, the other day, and it said that it’s much easier to stick to your New Year’s resolutions if you add something to your life, as opposed to taking something away. So you are doing it right.”

“What about you?”

“I am going to try to add some peace and calmness to my life. And go on two big international trips every year, instead of just one.”

“Looks like you’re starting the year off right. The desert is really peaceful,” he said.


As the sun slid closer to the horizon, the wind picked up. My nose started to get really cold.

“We better walk faster if we want to make it back to The Skateboard by dark,” I said.


Happy New Year Everyone!

For more information about Joshua Tree, visit:

Joshua Tree National Park

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2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Empowering girls through surfing

Click here to see my latest article published on Matador Change:
Empowering Girls Through Surfing

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Good Morning Cairo

After two flights and a four-hour layover in Frankfurt, we arrived in Cairo tired and disheveled. The customs officer waved us through with a flick of his hand, at about face level, and a look of “Get outta here.”

As we neared the end of the long line of people waiting on the other side of the guard rail, I noticed a sign that said “Zaahid”.

“That’s us,” I claimed, “I’m Desiree and this is my mom Brenda. Zaahid is my sister-in-law’s brother.”

“Hi Miss Desiree. Hi Mom. I am Moussa. I take you to Miss Hagar,” the man holding the sign explained.

The night air was warm and dry. I felt like I could finally breathe, after all that air-conditioning on the plane and in the airport. Moussa stuffed our suitcases into the trunk and we piled into the back seat of his sedan. He drove fast. I didn’t mind but Mom looked like she did.

“Welcome to Egypt,” Moussa called from the front seat, “First time?”

“Yes,” mom and I said succinctly.

Hagar and her mom, whom we had never met, hugged us and welcomed us into their home. We drank a sweet tea, made from tamarind and chatted.  I was so tired my eyes were closing as I listened to them.

“Don’t worry if you hear fire crackers and cheering in the middle of the night. There is a wedding hall right next door,” Hagar said as she took us up to our apartment, on the 13th floor. We collapsed into our beds.

The next morning I woke up early with the sunlight piercing its way through the windows. I stumbled onto the balcony and this is what I saw:

The infamous wedding hall down below and the Nile off in the distance.

I decided to take some pictures of the apartment, while it was still clean and tidy.

Out the kitchen window.

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A Trip to the Chiropractor’s Office – Recovering from a Sports Related Injury

“Stand with your legs shoulder width apart”, Dr. Marc Lucius, the chiropractor, instructed. “Can you see that one side of your hips is pushing forward more than the other?”

I glanced downwards and gasped, “I can’t believe that I didn’t notice. And why hadn’t the other doctors checked my hips?”

“Well, if you don’t know what to look for, then you won’t be able to see it.” He replied, sounding like some kind of a guru.

I had been leery about going to see a chiropractor. I didn’t like the idea of getting my back cracked and I was afraid that I would get addicted to the cracking. Instead of going to the physiotherapist, like I normally do, I decided to give the chiropractor a try. Marc was a friend of my brother, how bad could it be?

I explained to Marc how I got myself into this predicament.


The first time I injured my leg was about two months ago. It all started with a surf contest in the town where I live on the pacific coast of Mexico. I was so upset about not winning my heat that I vowed to do whatever necessary to win the next contest.

I started surfing harder and longer. Some days I would surf for four or five hours at a time. I stopped worrying about breaking my board. I stopped worrying hurting myself. I started watching surf videos on and thinking about what I needed to do to improve my surfing.

One area of my surfing that clearly needed improving was getting more vertical on my maneuvers. From watching the videos, I figured out what I needed to do – look exactly where I wanted to go. How could I have forgotten the golden rule? For years I had taught my students that in surfing, as in other sports, where your look is where you go. Why had I stop applying this rule to my own surfing?

After about a week and a half of surfing hard, my coach and I drove north in search of waves.  After the long drive, I just wanted to get in the water. I did a half-assed warm up and bolted. I caught a few small fun waves. Then a bigger set came through. I caught a wave and instead of looking further down the line on the wave, where I might do my next turn, I looked up. I focused on the spot a couple feet above my head and it worked. My board ricocheted perfectly off the lip (the top of the wave where it was breaking). My board and I whipped back down the face of the wave in one piece. We did it again. But on the third re-entry I felt the muscle in my inner thigh stretch to the limit and that was the end of my ride.

I dropped onto my stomach on my surfboard and paddled to shore. I limped out of the water and into the shade where my coach was sitting.

“What happened?” Guerrero asked.

“Did you not see my last wave?” I asked sarcastically.

“No, the sun got to be too hot so I came back up to the shade.” He told me.

He had missed my wave. He didn’t see my three incredibly vertical re-entries. I could feel my ears starting to burn, anger welling up inside me.

“Next time pretend that I am the Queen of England and don’t turn your back on me.” I advised. “ Walk backwards so that you can see me the whole time.”

Guerrero disregarded my last remark, and said, “The reason you hurt yourself is because you didn’t warm-up properly.”

A surge of pain snapped me back to the present day.  I was lying on the table in Dr. Marc’s office in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

“That really hurts.” I said. Clenching my teeth, I clasped onto both sides of the table.

“Just a few more.” The doctor assured me as he dug his thumb even deeper into the crevice of my upper leg, manually moving my leg up and down. He informed me that I had pulled my adductor longus muscle (the one in the inner thigh) and my iliopsoas (hip flexor muscle).

I rolled over onto my stomach. He pushed on one of my vertebrae, maybe the 5th one down from the top, wanting to know if it hurt. Of course it did. He zapped me a couple of times in the area with some little impact gun, actually called an Activator. Following instructions, I turned onto my side. He grabbed one of my legs and pushed down while twisting. I heard some cracks and let out a few curses. Then it was time for the other side, more cursing. I wondered if all the other patients cursed too. Apparently they did.

For the last couple of months, I had been trying to get over my injury. I had taken painkillers and anti-inflammatories. I had iced the injury. I had rested. I even quit surfing, swimming, yoga, and walking. Nothing had worked. And now, after hardly walking for six weeks, I walked out of my visit to the chiropractor’s office feeling 70% percent better.

The experience at the chiropractor wasn’t bad after all. In fact, after three doctors and an ultrasound, Dr. Lucius seemed to be the only one who knew exactly what to do. Maybe he was some sort of a guru after all.

Thank you Marc for putting up with my cursing and, more importantly, for helping me getting over my injury.

For more information, contact:
Oliver Chiropractic Wellness Clinic
10324 112th Street
Edmonton, Alberta
(780) 455-2112

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What Can You Do in Canmore, Alberta – when you are injured?

Seven weeks have passed since I originally injured my leg while surfing. I am not allowed to do any strenuous physical activity – that clearly means no surfing but it also means no hiking. At least I am allowed to walk short distances! Mom and I decided to spend a leisurely day in the mountains.

We drove out of Calgary and cruised to Canmore. The sun was shining and there wasn’t too much traffic. Once in Canmore, we looked for a place to picnic. We ended up heading out of town on the road that takes you to Spray Lakes. After the fork in the road, we took the first left at Quarry Lake. In the parking lot, we saw some moms laden down with folding chairs, bags, buckets of toys, and blankets. My mom said, “Let’s follow them; they can’t be going too far with all that stuff.”

She was right. From the parking lot, it is a short walk to the little mountain lake. If you are injured, just get someone (like your mom) to carry your picnic basket or simply put it in a wagon. The park has a few picnic tables and park-style bathrooms. Enjoy!

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Sunshine, Surfboards and Smiles with the Wahine Project in Punta de Mita, Mexico

Sun protection – Dionne putting Zinka on the Wahines’ faces.

More Zinka

The beach at Punta de Mita

Only a few light clouds, not like the other day when it started raining while we were in the water with the girls.

America and Dionne

Waiting for waves

One of the only waves of the day.

Room for two

Miriam is up and riding with the help of a push from Brandon.

Dionne, making her exit.

Gather around to claim your Lei.

The Punta de Mita Wahines

But wait, there are more gifts.

Me too! Me too!

Estrella taking notes from Rosario – how to put on a leash correctly.

Photos by: Desiree Bilon

The Wahine Project, an organization founded by Dionne Ybarra, seeks to break down the barriers that prevent the participation of young girls in the sport of surfing. By providing girls, who would otherwise not have the opportunity to surf, with resources, education, outreach and travel the girls can become proficient surfers while building their self-esteem and becoming socially responsible.

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Endorphin TV Demo – Surf in Mexico

In February the production team from Endorphin TV stopped by San Pancho and filmed us for three days. Guerrero (our coach), the local surf boys, and I will be featured in a couple of the episodes. Click on the photo below to check out the recently released demo.

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