To say Julie Vasselin’s first year of competitive wakesurfing has gone well would be a colossal understatement, as the 23-year-old Sylvan Laker prepares to compete among the world’s best at the World Wakesurfing Championships in Lake Las Vegas next week.
Surfers qualified for the event through competitions all around the world. Vasselin herself will be competing as a result of solid showings at competitions around the United States this summer, which included fourth-place finishes in Georgia and Texas, and a second-place finish in Minnesota.
Competing against some of the world’s top surfers, she admits placing will be an immense challenge for her. But it’s one she’s relishing, along with the opportunity to compete at the highest level of a sport she truly loves.
“I didn’t get involved in competing just for the reward of placing,” she said.
Rather, her involvement in the sport — in which surfers ride a wave created by a boat — began three years ago during a lake outing with friends and family.
After that, she quickly became hooked.
“I went behind a family friend’s boat, and they just put me on a surfboard and said have fun,” she said. “From there, I was hooked.”
Since then, she’s been “practicing like crazy” on Sylvan Lake, and on other water bodies around the continent when temperatures begin to cool locally — all in the midst of studying for, and writing, her chartered accountancy exams.
“This summer, I had a lot of practice time, so I tried to practice as much as I could here, and when the weather wasn’t good in Sylvan, I would either head down to Koocanusa or Chestermere,” she said. “People in Florida, they can surf year round and they don’t know what snow is, but … our season isn’t really considered a year.”
Surfers at the World Championships are given two minutes to prove their ability. They’re judged on the intensity of their ride, as well as the difficulty and variety of tricks they perform — which may include everything from 360-degree spins to riding the board switch, or in reverse.
Vasselin is planning on arriving in Las Vegas a few days early to get a feel for the wave she’ll be riding. And regardless of how she fares in the competition, she’s happy to continue doing what she loves, and is even planning on offering lessons in Sylvan Lake next summer.
“It’s taken a lot of work to become good at it, but I just enjoy it,” she said. “I find it relaxing, and I find it stress-free. It’s just fun and it’s something that anybody can do.”