Surfing is more than just a hobby for Anne-Marie Paquet — it’s her calling.
Despite picking up a board only three years ago, she’s been asked to join Canada’s Paralympic surfing team and will be heading to California in a few weeks to compete in the US Open Adaptive Surfing Championship.
But with limited spots to catch a wave in Montreal and dozens of people lining up to ride one daily, Paquet says training is a challenge.
“I’m trying to do the best I can … but the more wait, the less we do waves,” she said.
As it stands, there are two main surf spots in Montreal: a wave behind Habitat 67 and another just off Des Rapides Park in Lasalle, called Vague à Guy.
The city’s river surfing association says the crowds at these spots have been growing for the past three to four years, which has left some people waiting more than 30 minutes to ride a wave for 45 seconds.
“There’s so many people surfing in some spots that a lot of surfers that have been surfing for years now stop because it’s too busy, too long of a wait to catch a wave,” said Jérémie Gauthier-Lacasse, a veteran of the Montreal surfer community and spokesperson for Surf Grand Montréal.
On Wednesday, the association brought crowds to Lachine’s waters, where they’re asking for a new wave to be built in the St. Lawrence River west of the existing sites.
Gauthier says his association is proposing the wave be implemented in the river just south of Parc René Lévesque, which he says will not hinder the transformation project planned for Lachine’s new waterfront park.
“River surfing is much difference than actual ocean surfing. The main difference is that it’s a standing wave, so the wave is always at the same spot, and most days it’s going to be very similar, if not identical to the previous,” said Gauthier.
He says with the borough already working to re-develop the waterfront, the engineering of a new wave could more easily be included in the plans.
Lachine Mayor Maja Vodanovic says she’s open to the idea.
“Bring me the feasibility studies and we’re going to take a look at it. I think it’s very cool because then we could do all the sports here,” she said.
Surf Grand Montréal says finding the funds for those studies is the next step, but the community need makes the effort worthwhile.
“Getting such a project underway would be huge for us,” said Gauthier.
“It’s a dream that we all have of creating river waves here and having one more playground.”