Paddleboard FullHub Staff 

Local athlete Chris Stoner of the Saugeen Shores Lifesaving Club has just returned home from the 2015 Sanyo Bussan International Lifesaving Cup in Miyazaki, Japan (read original story here) and spoke to The Hub about his experiences of competing for the Canadian national team.

The team was made up of five men and five women and Stoner said that unfortunately one of the women had to drop out of the competition before it commenced and another was injured on the first day of the competition so had to drop out on day two.

In the two day competition Stoner competed in 11 events in total, six on the first day and five the second. Events in which he took part included both individual and team races. “There was one where we did a four by ninety meter sprint on land and another one where I was helping drag someone out of the water after they were rescued,” he said. “I had a number of top ten finishes in individual events and our relays placed fifth.”

Mackenzie Salmon, who lives out of the area but trains with the Saugeen Shores Lifesaving Club was also part of the national team and partnered with Stoner for part of the competition. Stoner explained that the teammates were rated for each individual event. “I finished ninth in the paddleboard race and Mac [Mackenzie Salmon] and I finished fifth in the two-man board and Canada placed fifth out of seven countries, we did pretty good as a country.”

“I think last time that we competed we were placed sixth out of seven countries so it was an improvement,” Stoner continued. Australia was the eventual winner of the competition, narrowly beating New Zealand, with Japan coming third.

Stoner said that competing in the ocean was a lot different to the lake. “The waves were a lot bigger and a lot more powerful so any kind of mistake you made it gets punished even worse than in the lake,” he said. “In the lake a wave might knock you off your board or your ski but in the ocean ... it then takes your board or ski all the way to shore, you then you have to swim all the way back, get on and try again. You have to be technically a lot better to do very well in the ocean.”

Stoner said that watching the Australian and New Zealand teams compete was incredible. “They found waves in the ocean that nobody else knew existed. It was amazing,” he said.

“The experience was amazing. Getting to compete against some of those top athletes was really fun,” Stoner said. “Getting to experience the Japanese culture, that was a new one. They're so respectful. I was completely blown away by that. It was amazing. The food was great too. We had sushi, huge buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner, anything you could basically want.”

Stoner said that the Japanese were really receptive and on the second day of competition, which was a national holiday there, many in Miyazaki came out to watch the races. “The crowds were really good. It was funny as a lot of the spectators got to buy flags and about half of them were Japanese flags and the other half were Canadian flags so it was really cool to see. They didn't know anything about us but they were all supporting us.”

Stoner explained that overseas, surf lifesaving is pushed a lot more and a lot of their younger population compete in it. “In Canada we only have a hundred plus athletes competing at Juniors but overseas they'll have thousands of little guys,” he said. “In terms of competition it's a little bit harder for us to be able to compete on the same level as they do since they start when they're a lot younger than we are and have so many more athletes to pull from.”

He said that right now the sport is relatively new in Canada but it is growing and that every year new attendance records are set. “In Ontario we're lucky we have the Great Lakes so that's where a number of our more competitive lifesaving clubs come from.”

Now that the Sanyo Bussan International Lifesaving Cup is over Stoner is gearing up for the provincials in the middle of August and then the Surf Nationals in Nova Scotia at the end of August.

Stoner would love to go to the Sanyo Bussen competition again. “My focus and a lot of other Canadian athletes' focus right now would probably be towards the world championship in the Netherlands next year. They do half the events at the pool and half the events at the beach.”

Stoner explained that selection for the team is based on performance at the recent competition in Japan as well as performances at surf nationals this summer.Chris Stoner trainingNational TeamTeam Canada