Ponoka’s own Bailey Rush landed double gold wins at the 2023 Competitive Wake Surf Association (CWSA) World Championship earlier this month — triumphing in both the pro surf style and pro skim style women’s divisions.
She is the first female to win a world title in both the surf and skim pro divisions. Rush dominated the championship scoring 97.5 (out of 100) in surf style and 97 in skim style to establish herself among the very best in one of the world’s fastest-growing sports.
The event was held in Seoul, South Korea, and Rush, 23, can hardly believe that such a long-held dream has come true.
“I just had this overwhelming feeling of happiness,” she said, recalling the moment of realizing her accomplishment.
“It’s always been my goal to win worlds at the pro level in both surf style and skim style.
“I’ve always believed that if you think you can do something, you should go for it and pursue your goals. The fact that I had this as such a big goal for so long, and to see it finally happen — all of those hours (of practice) paid off. It was a feeling of ‘wow!’”
Wakesurf is part of the wake sports family alongside wakeboard, wake park, wakeskate, and wake foil; all part of a collection of board sports that includes surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding.
Rush, a Rimbey teacher who is also a Wake Canada National Team athlete, hasn’t been at the sport for a long time.
“Since 2014, we actually had a surf boat, but we didn’t know what wake surfing was. So we just used the boat for fishing,” she said with a laugh.
“It wasn’t until 2016 that my Dad’s friend took us out on his surf boat and showed us what it was. I had my very first try, and I absolutely loved it.
“I had a passion for it from the get-go.
“My Dad and I would get out to the lake on those early mornings when the water was nice and glassy and I would practice. There were lots of beautiful sunrises and sunsets,” she said, adding that her family’s support has been integral to her development in the sport as well.
“My parents are the reason that I’m doing this sport, and I appreciate them a lot.”
But back to how it all started. Her folks had attended a boat show in 2016, and got to talking to a couple of wake surfers there.
“They mentioned to my parents that there is a fun stream of competition in Alberta called Water Ski and Wakeboard Alberta,” she said.
“I ended up signing up for one of those competitions, and I won it. From there, I found that there was a more competitive side of wake surfing with the Competitive Wake Surf Association. I went to a bunch of those competitions, and I did well. I then ended up getting an invitation to the World Wake Surfing Championships in 2017.”
She won the 2017 amateur surf-style world wake surfing championship, which vaulted her to the semi-professional level.
Rush kept honing her skills with the CWSA and again landed a first at the 2018 semi-professional surf-style world wake surfing championships.
Now, she was in the professional ranks.
“Of course, there was a bit of a gap with COVID, so there were online competitions which was awesome — the sport continued to grow, which was good.”
Meanwhile, her world titles capped off a stellar season that included wins at the Nautique WWA USA Wakesurf Nationals (surf-style), the European Wakesurf Championships in England (surf-style and skim-style), and the Geneva Wakesurf Tour in Switzerland (surf-style and skim-style).
She is one of only a few women who compete in both styles.
And to top it all off, Rush is also an accomplished figure skater, NCCP coach, and regional figure skating coach.
“I want to continue competing and coaching and just helping to make wake surfing more well-known in Canada,” she said, adding that she loves seeing people grow and excel in their own pursuit of athletic excellence. “I want to inspire people and let them know that if they believe they can do something, they can do it.
“The feeling when you surf is just unmatched. A big compliment that I’ve received with my wake surfing is that people say I look like I’m doing a dance when I surf. That is really special to me, because coming from a figure skating background, I love sports where you can feel the flow of the movement, and can keep getting better.
“Another thing that is cool about wake surfing is that everyone has their own style. A couple of people can do the same tricks, but they will look very different.
“Plus, you are outside on a lake, and I don’t think you can beat that — it’s beautiful!”