TOFINO, B.C. — When most Canadians envision the Olympic torch making its way through their community leading up to the 2010 Winter Games, it’s safe to suggest they don’t usually think “surf’s up!”
But those two words were on everyone’s mind Sunday night as the flaming torch took a ride on a surf board in the resort community of Tofino, B.C.
Residents turned out in droves for an impromptu beach party and didn’t mind getting a bit wet as the tide rolled in, soaking those in attendance to their knees.
“It’s real west coast Canada,” said Tofino resident Sarah Platenius as she stood in the water with her family. “Pretty cool.”
The torch, which had already travelled by canoe, wheelchair, mountain bike, and float plane since it arrived in Victoria on Friday, continued its journey along Vancouver Island by riding a wave.
Ruth Sadler, 72, waded into the chilly water carrying a lit Olympic torch and waited for local and professional surfer Raphael Brunweiler to surf by.
It took two attempts but when their torches finally met, Brunweiler’s flame was lit and sparked a loud roar from the throng on the beach.
The torch relay ahead of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics will visit more than one thousand communities by the time it arrives at the opening ceremonies for the Games on Feb. 12.
As the torch travels through Canada’s North, it will be pulled by dog sled, moved along the snow on a polar bear skin also pulled by a dog, and transported on an Inuit kayak.
Before the torch arrived in Tofino, where it was also transported by skateboard, it was part of a community celebration in nearby Port Alberni.
While there, the torch continued its trend of unique transportation by hitching a ride on a rebuilt logging vehicle.
“I want everything to work out for the torch. Being part of the Olympics, that’s a big deal,” said Hank Bakken, who worked in Port Alberni’s forest industry for 38 years and shuttled the torch around.
Bakken, 70, saluted the flame with three loud blasts of his horn.
Earlier Sunday, hundreds of residents in Parksville, B.C, lined both sides of the Island Highway as Olympic torchbearers ran through the seaside community.
Annie Humphries-Loutit, 69, said she came to cheer on her grandson, Riley Monnet, 13, who was given the honour of running the torch into Parksville’s community park where he was welcomed by a brass band and hundreds of cheering spectators.
Humphries-Loutit said she is a proud grandmother, but not an Olympics booster.
“I’m happy he’s running,” she said. “But I’m of two minds — if they hadn’t had to cut anything it would have been better, or had people homeless.”
Humphries-Loutit held a cardboard sign that said, “Go Riley Go.”
An out of breath Riley held the torch high before saying, “Hi grandma.”
High school student Haley Toriglia said she was chosen to run with the torch after entering a contest with Coca-Cola and writing an essay about how she lives a green lifestyle. She said she is a diligent recycler and walks whenever she can.
She said while she was running with the torch her heart was pounding because, “I was the only person in the world at that moment holding the torch.”
The Olympic flame arrived in Canada on Friday after it was lit in Greece and ran around that country for a week. It was ignited in the ruins of an ancient temple in Olympia and handed over to Canadians in Athens.
The relay route is 45,000 kilometres, making it the longest domestic relay in Olympic history, and it will be for many Canadians the only chance to experience the Games in person.
The first day of the 106-day relay was capped by a protest involving several hundred people in downtown Victoria on Friday night, forcing security officials to divert the route and cancel the runs of several torchbearers.