Queen Of The Peak Is Much More Than A Surf Contest

words:: Ben Osborne  photos:: Bryanna Bradley (@bryannabradleyphotography)

Krissy Montgomery was tired. Another surf competition was set to come to town, and she could predict what was coming: event organizers giving women the worst times to compete, doling out less prize money, and even sometimes completely forgetting to announce the winners for the women’s side. One day over a cup of coffee with local Tofitian Jay Gildenhuys of Shelter Restaurant, an idea was spawned. Forget the out of town organizers, and empower those who haven’t yet gotten their slice of the pie: the female surf community of Tofino.

There’s a cliché out there that goes something like this: you have the ability to shape your own reality by creating your own destiny. The Queen Of The Peak, the first all women’s surf competition in Canada, represents just that for Krissy Montgomery and the surf community in the country’s surf capital.

Each year, the beach setup grows bigger and more business’s throw their support behind the women of Tofino.

In order to understand the power of this movement, first you need understand the greater problem in surfing. If you are in tune with the outdoor world, you may have heard some exciting news this summer— the World Surf League announced equal pay for men’s and women’s champions.  In the surfing world and beyond, equality is a problem Women have been battling for decades. This move by the World Surf League was a long time coming, and is a testament to the surf community, and female surfers all over the world like Krissy Montgomery who had a vision and ran with it.

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At the core of every revolution is a fiery cocktail consisting of empowered grassroots movements, strong-minded individuals, and passion from every direction. In the case of women’s surf competitions, the Queen Of The Peak women’s surf competition is one of those soulful  community gatherings that over the past nine years has slowly chipped away at the proverbial wall put up by not only the WSL, but the male-centric competitive action sports scene.

“We were always surfing at the crappiest times, our prize money was one fifth of the mens—girls couldn’t really get excited about contest surfing. When you treat women with some respect, they definitely thrive.”

It has now been ten years since Krissy Montgomery alongside a few friends and a strong community  decided to create their own reality—and business is booming.

It’s all love between competitors at Queen Of The Peak.
The paddle out.

The event is supported by more than twenty local businesses in Tofino, BC including Pacific Sands Beach Resort, Wildside Grill, and Aftanas Surfboards that have  fearlessly thrown their support behind the event. When out of town surf events were coming to town and having women compete at the times when surf was worst to prioritize the men’s surfing, Krissy and many other locals grew tired of seeing inequality in the sport when they knew Tofino had plenty of powerful women in the lineup. “We were always surfing at the crappiest times, our prize money was 1/5 of the mens—girls couldn’t really get excited about contest surfing”, Krissy recalls.

One of the most unique things about the surf scene in Tofino is the very things that these contests were ignoring: the heavy presence and undeniable skill of women in the lineup, especially in comparison to other surf scenes across the world.  “What’s neat about our surfing here is that it has always incorporated women… our history of surfing here is so new that the scene has just existed with women in it from the beginning.”

Toes on the nose.
No inequality in this competition—women get the conditions they deserve, and things like this happen.

The event has certainly reflected the scene and it’s growth in Tofino. It started with just 30 competitors, but has since grown to over 100 in the event’s ninth year. It’s simple and seems obvious, but thankfully we have fine folks like Krissy saying it: “When you treat women with some respect, they definitely thrive.”

This year’s shortboard winner, Mathea Olin, feeling the love.

So, with their hands totally full with more than twenty local and national sponsors, a live stream (before any other competition got one), and substantial prize money, where can the small town’s grassroots champion go next? Maybe it’s not about where they go—it’s how they choose to grow.

Krissy wants to extend the fun beyond the competition and into town with leadup events like an art show, and more. “We want people who aren’t just surfers to feel more involved and be able to celebrate the surf scene out there—that’s what it’s all about.”-ML