Sanoa Dempfle-Olin set to makes waves at Paris 2024 as Canada’s first Olympic surfer

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin, set to become Canada’s first-ever Olympian in surfing, is looking forward to getting her feet wet on the waves of Teahupo’o, Tahiti where the surf competition will take place for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

“[The wave at Teahupo’o] can be big and scary, but it’s also a really fun wave,” says Dempfle-Olin, who has the knowledge from having surfed the tropical tube previously. 

Teahupo’o is a renowned surf spot, which includes hosting the Tahiti Pro, a major competition on the World Surf League calendar, for over 20 years. It also offers some advantages to the 18-year-old.

“I’m a goofy-footer, so that means I’m frontside at that wave because it’s a left. So, that definitely plays into my strengths personally,” Dempfle-Olin says.

Read: Surfing 101 with Sanoa Dempfle-Olin

The conditions in Tahiti will be very different from the swells that Dempfle-Olin grew up surfing at home in Tofino, B.C. But now that she spends so much time travelling to different countries to compete, it no longer feels as strange for her as it did at first to surf without a wetsuit.

One of those places that Dempfle-Olin travelled to compete was to Chile this past October for the Santiago 2023 Pan Am Games. She provisionally qualified for Paris 2024 when she advanced to the finals in the women’s shortboard competition. Dempfle-Olin went on to secure the silver medal.

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin carries her surfboard as she gets out of the back of a pickup truck
Sanoa Dempfle-Olin after earning Olympic qualification in women’s shortboard at the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games (ISA/Pablo Franco)

Believe it or not, it wasn’t the first Pan Am Games surfing medal in Dempfle-Olin’s family, despite the sport’s short history in major multi-sport events. The sport made its Pan Am Games debut at Lima 2019, where Dempfle-Olin’s older sister, Mathea, won Canada’s first-ever Pan Am medal in surfing, taking bronze in the women’s longboard, which is not on the Olympic programme. Surfing made its Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020 with the shortboard events, although Canada did not qualify any athletes.

Despite her family’s history, or perhaps because of it, Dempfle-Olin kept her goals for Santiago 2023 tight to her chest. 

“I was really silent with my intentions going there. I never told anyone how big of a deal I was making it for myself,” Dempfle-Olin says. 

The young surfer thinks that the sibling rivalry with her older sister has been a healthy motivation for her surfing pursuits.

“Me and Mathea were very competitive growing up, from surfing to silly things, like making breakfast in the morning, or cleaning our rooms. Everything was always a competition, but it was always a healthy competition,” Dempfle-Olin says. “I think that’s why we were both able to get to the level that we are now. We’re always there to support each other, and push each other when we need to as well.”

Two months before the Pan Am Games, Dempfle-Olin achieved a career highlight when she won her first World Surf League Qualifying Series event, the WRV Outer Banks Pro in North Carolina. In January 2024, she claimed her first WSL Pro Junior win at the SLO CAL Open at Pismo Beach, California. She also made history in 2017 when she became the youngest-ever female surfer to win the Tofino Rip Curl Pro when she was 11 years old.

Dempfle-Olin confirmed her provisional qualification for Paris 2024 by competing at the 2024 ISA World Surfing Games, where she finished tied for 13th.

A surfer in a red top rides a wave
Sanoa Dempfle-Olin of Canada competes in the women’s shortboard surfing during the Santiago 2023 Pan American Games at the Punta de Lobos, Pichilemu, Chile. (Jorge Loyola/Santiago 2023 vía Photosport).

The Paris 2024 Organizing Committee chose to stage the surfing competitions in Teahupo’o, which is part of French Polynesia, to align with its ambition to spread the Games across France. It offers an opportunity to engage French Overseas Territories and their communities in the Olympic Games while showcasing France’s diverse heritage, including French Polynesian culture.

As it will be for the Olympics, at Santiago 2023, the surfing competition took place quite a distance from the central hub of competition venues and had its own satellite athletes’ village. As a result, having a close-knit Team Canada support squad is all the more important. When Dempfle-Olin qualified for Paris 2024, the rest of the Team Canada crew at Santiago 2023 rushed into the ocean fully-clothed to celebrate with her. 

The Olympic surfing competition will take place July 27-30, with contingency days planned for July 31-August 4 in case of any weather delays.

Team Canada Surfing Athletes at Paris 2024: 

Sanoa Dempfle-Olin (Tofino, B.C.) – Women’s Shortboard