We caught up Pro Wakesurfer Caroline Villeneuve at her home in Fernie, B.C.
You’ve got Bryce here today on the WakeSurfing podcast. I’m here joined today with…
She says it so much nicer than me.
Yeah, you didn’t want to try it.
Well, I just stopped at Caro. You’re in my phone as Caro. I think I have your last initial in there but that’s what I go with. Every time I have to actually take her name out, I go online and make sure I have the proper spelling and everything. I mostly have it but not all the time. So, for people that don’t know you though, you are a professional wake surfer. You’re the Pro Female Skim World Champion 2015 and most recently you got certified as a bonafide legend. You are…
The legendary award, that was pretty cool.
So… tell us a little bit about that?
Yeah. Well the Legend award that basically goes to someone has been involved with the sport for over a decade and that brings their share of knowledge and time into the sport and I’ve been recognized for that. So that was very, yeah, I’m very grateful I got this.
Well, being around the sport for as long as you have and seeing what you’ve done, my view of it… It was a super deserving. Congratulations Caro.
So where in the world are you right now?
I’m in the Fernie, British Columbia, Canada.
And you’re trying to keep warm?
Oh god, it is so cold lately. I’m born and raised in Quebec and it’s way colder there and now I’ve been here for probably close to 15 years and I’m just thinking how did I survive in Quebec for 20 years before. I don’t know.
I got no idea. There’s a cold snap going on right now. It’s the middle of February for those listening, if we’re trying to date ourselves. And I had to leave Kelowna because it was too cold. I went to Vancouver. Vancouver is like the warmest place that you could possibly get in Canada.
Pretty hot, yeah.
Well you know me, I’m not normally around in the winter, and either you. You normally spend quite a bit of time in AZ, we get to hang out.
Yeah, Arizona, Florida quite a bit. I actually go with Keenan quite a bit every year for, how many years now? Eight years probably. In the last few years I’ve been… as soon as… because I work with Island Lake. So usually I’m in BC for the winter, I drive a snow cat and then as soon as I’m done, like two days later, I’d be flying south and I’d go over to Keenan’s a bit and then ride with Jody Grassman for a bit and visit, My parents have got a place down there. So visit my parents and then go see Sean Silveria, ride with Tarzan. So I usually make a bit of a trip out of it and I haven’t been traveling for over a year now, a year and a half and that’s, yeah, it’s pretty unusual.
It’s super weird. I can’t wait for this all to be over.
I hear you.
It’s been a really, really crazy. I’ve seen some of your videos and stuff from down south when you’re in Florida. That looks kind of like the best time ever.
It’s pretty hard to beat and same with Arizona, when I go see the Hudson’s and that’s usually when I see you and that’s also a very good time, but yeah traveling is just not ideal right now.
No, but around that crew, do you find it really helps motivate you, push your riding, learn new things, learn new tricks, like what does it do for you?
Oh absolutely. Well it does that and on top of that, I mean well, you know like Canada has pretty short summers. So, by going there in April, spending April let’s say in Florida, then May in Arizona, by the time I get back to June here, I already got back to where I was a year before if not a little more and then I can start from there. So last year was actually the first spring that I spent in Canada since I’ve been competing professionally. It was brutal. Like I’ve never seen that period of the year where the snow was melting, everything’s brown. It’s like you can still snowboard or go ride, but the chairlifts are closed and you have to hike and it’s not warm enough to go ride yet. So there’s like two months of not much here. And yeah last spring was pretty brutal, and it really shortened the season for sure. So, I do like to extend my three months to a five, six months when I can, but that didn’t happen this year.
Absolutely, and for those of you guys listening Caro runs a school, H2O school there in Fernie, so her seasons even shorter when it comes to her own personal riding because if you know anything about coaching people, you’re riding falls by the wayside because you’re too busy making sure everyone else is learning and having fun. Tell us about your school, like what’s your set up like? I know you moved locations.
Yes, so we’re on the same lake, Lake Koocanusa. It’s about half hour from Fernie. I used to be about an hour from Fernie and now we kind of moved to be a little closer. It is about halfway between Fernie and Cranbrook for those who know the area. It’s a beautiful lake. It is a reservoir, so it takes a little bit of time for the water to just come up in the lake. It’s kind of a river in the spring and it’ll turn into a lake when in the states, Koocanusa dam gets closed, but it takes a bit. So, before that, I’ll go on another lake and I’ll be running there for a little bit, but I have to trailer the boat back and forth. Then once I get to Koocanusa, then I have my dock over there, that marina is beautiful right by the bridge, Yeah, I get all my gear and everything right there, people come to see me and here we go. We’re pretty much right from the dock and back to the dock, and actually it’s been 10 years, is going to be 11 year now with H2O school, and I never received any waves at either end of the lake, so it’s a huge lake and a there’s a lot of water, a lot of room. Even on busy days versus pretty much anywhere else in the world it’s still quiet. So it’s very good conditions to surf. There’s usually a very good spot to hide from the wind if there is wind, we don’t have much rain. So, it’s very, very rare that I cancel lessons.
You also happen to have arguably the most beautiful backdrop in the entire world when it comes to the mountains and everything around. You are smack dab in the middle Rockies.
It’s beautiful, yeah. And the water color is green, really, really nice to have. Like the Bahamas of Canada.
I was very fortunate you introduced a lot of us to that area of the world when you used to run your contest, the Koocanusa WakeSurf challenge.
Yeah, that was… we did quite a few years of it. The first one was in 2012. We skipped a year then did a few years in a row, and then we started to get more comps around and the summer is short and I wanted to just kind of pass the torch and it became the event in Chestermere from the Hudsons that have been organizing it with Absolute Water Sports and then the Nationals moved west because it used to be east for quite a few years. So, then I can I just help the other ones organizing their events.
Exactly. It makes things a little bit easier. Speaking of Absolute… I noticed your boards in the back. You have a new board sponsor. Let’s go through your list of sponsors.
Okay, well I’ve been with Centurion Boats for a decade now actually. Since I got with them I also got Absolute Water Sports which is the boat dealer at out of Strathmore. And he is amazing, I’m super pleased with both of those sponsors. So, with the boat, I mean those boats Centurion… has been proved to be the best wake on the market right now and has been for quite some time and pulling everthing to the Worldwide Surfing Championship for quite some time as well. The technology, innovations of those boats is just absolutely amazing. Jeff who is Absolute Water Sports is just yeah, fabulous with all the services and everything that you can wish for. You’re never going to get down with a broken boat, you know, for more than a couple hours. If anything, I’ve been pretty lucky. Both are great, so that’s nice.
I can speak how great Jeff is. I know I’ve called him in a mad panic from all corners of the world… Hey, you got any ideas of what’s going on? He’s like, it’s this, this, do this, do that. Jeff is an absolute beauty.
He knows his stuff, he doesn’t need to look at a book. He kind of just knows it…
Yeah. And I got Phase Five, so it’s my second year with Phase Five. I mean that was a bit of a dream for me because my very, very first board when I started in 2006, 7? It was a Phase 5 Icon. And I was trying to get on that team, but I was a nobody back then. So yes, a couple years ago I kind of approached Jeff again and I just got on the team and I felt like a big part of that team for a very long time even though it’s fairly new. Let’s say… but they’ve been taking very good care of me and it’s one of the… I think it’s the most elite team of Wake surfers in the world right now. So, I’m super happy and proud to be part of that team and I get to train with the — when we are allowed to travel, I get to train with the best in the world, so that’s pretty amazing there too. As far as sponsor, of course, H2O school. I wouldn’t be able to do anything that I do without H2O school. Wake Ballast. With Wake Ballast i make sure I get all the weight that I needed for the boat when I have nobody else. Because when you have a 16 person boat but you don’t really want 16 people on your boat while you go training and with Covid, it’s another excuse to have just more lead. Wake Ballast has been awesome.
I think Ben would correct you and tell you it’s steel.
Ben was very adamant it is steel… and he’s the raddest dude.
He’s been amazing for quite a few years with me and H2O School. Then I also got BB Talking USA, which is their waterproof Bluetooth communication device. We got that when we started to do the fly boarding which I don’t do anymore, I just concentrate on the wake surf stuff, but its such great tool and especially with Covid now it’s even better to keep your distances and it works great. So, we got the helmet one, we’ve got the ball cap one and I can just talk to the rider live without screaming over everybody else that’s on the boat. I can just talk directly to that person and I can’t hear what they’re saying to me as well. So, it improves the coaching like by 300%. Actually, last year I was asking myself, how was I doing it before? It is so much easier, I love it, I love it.
Then I got Wake Canada that’s been sponsoring me for quite a few years. I’m on the senior team, National team. Recently, actually last year was my first year with Shuswap Ski and Board. So, they’re helping out with the equipment and wetsuits because we are in Canada and its not super warm. I got a foil for the summer last year, and well on behalf of Phase Five boards as well so it’s kind of a perfect combination with Phase Five and Shuswap. And also a local shop in town Commit Snow and Skate, they’re sponsoring me. So those guys are local and just always support me in everything I do. So yes, that’s my awesome list of sponsors without who I cannot put enough emphasis that I would not be able to afford doing what I’m doing without those guys supporting me.
That is really awesome. Let’s backtrack to your school a little bit. I know that is has played a major part in your career. But you’re also playing a major part in shaping a whole bunch of young careers. You’ve got some riders, who’s your up and coming riders? Tell the people.
Upcoming right now… let’s see Kerry Williams is kind of like… he’s under my wing. He’s just kind of a stand out to me versus other kids. I was like, wow, that kid’s good. The next week, the mom texted me saying he just registered for Nationals, can you help him out? That’s kind of how it started. A year later same competition, Canadian Nationals, he won the juniors. So that was pretty cool, and he works really hard many, many, many hours. So definitely that’s kid is one of the up and comers. Of course Dagen and Ryder… that is the thing. You see, I plant a lot of seeds and then those guys, for example Isaac and Gabby, you know like the year before, or the Hudsons, I call them planting seeds. But then they go, yeah but then they go from there and that those guys teach so many other people. So I would say those kids get coached a lot more by Isaac and once a while I get the treat to get my hand in there, kinda thing, but with Sara Tallon…I coached her a few times but she’s more riding with you. And when I see now that she kicks my butt, I love it. It proves that I’m a pretty good coach.
Exactly. I stand by that, I’m a much better coach than a rider.
Yeah, absolutely, I have always been, me too.
That’s awesome. Honestly some of my fondest memories of any competition I’ve been to have been some of the Koocanusa ones and just everything it embodies and everything that we got to do there and experience…the people. It was amazing. Besides those, do you have any that stuck out to you? Some of your favorite comps and places you’ve got to go?
So many, like I’ve been to over 80 competitions. Japan was pretty cool just because I’ve never been to that part of the world before. The same feeling the first couple times in Russia, I got to go coach in Dubai and Switzerland, and actually got to coach in the Bahamas for a month a few years ago. That was super awesome. It’s really hard to pick one out of the pack really. I think it’s just that too many good memories everywhere. But I always prefer the competitions where everybody stays in the same spot. So those that you camp, like camping styles, it’s more my style than the fancy hotels, it’s A, cheaper and B it’s just for fun when everybody’s there, like Wakeshredder back then was the same idea, Wakeshredder throw down? Everybody’s like on the spot. So it’s a bit more, everybody stays together. So those are probably some of my best memories for sure.
There are those do make for some amazing times especially for people that maybe aren’t or brand new to the sport, it’s their first contest. they will be standing there and we’ll see somebody like yourself, or Keenan walk by them and you can go say hi. You guys are super approachable. Everywhere you go it’s pretty cool to see those types of things.
I know its fun. I go to competitions where everybody books their hotels then it’s like… they’ll show up before the run. I was always the kind of person that would kind of hang out there most of the days anyways and if you wouldn’t see me because I was on the boat judging. But I feel those competitions… it was more people on the beach, all the time just because that’s kind of where we are for the weekend and we all stayed together and yeah, have fun.
That’s awesome. Surely though you’ve got a favorite trophy out of all these? You must have a couple favorite trophies.
Dude, I have so many trophies. Actually, for a while I have them in boxes because I didn’t know where to put them. And I finally put some up and it takes a lot of room. I have to actually… I’ve got some of them in my living room, I’ve got some in my bedroom, but yeah, I got a lot. I got actually some of my favorite… Here I’ll show you. You can see good here. That was one of my first trophies I had, it’s like handmade with bolts and, I love it. And I think it was 2007 that one. So, one of my first ones. This is another pretty cool one from Worlds. It’s hard to tell because it’s glass you can’t quite see through maybe. But it’s like a little Volkswagen van. So there was the Worlds 2018, actually 2017 in Kelowna. It’s hard to see probably with the camera but it is super cool. It is super cool.
That is awesome.
Of course those are the most rewarding ones.
My legend award and that is my first place at Worlds in 2015.
I don’t know if I ever cheered so hard for when somebody got to go stand on the first place podium there. That was amazing day. I was excited.
That was a pretty amazing time of my career for sure. And you know what else? I got a big pile of big checks that I don’t know what to do with.
Just try and deposit them again.
So many, for a bit I kind of plastered the walls of the shed and the ceiling of the shed when I was at the other place at Koocanusa. When I moved I didnt bring the shed with me. I got a trailer now to put all my equipment in and then I just kind of piled the checks in. It’s a lot of checks. But I can’t quite get rid of them but they’re just… Yeah, it looks like I should be pretty rich when you look at all those checks, but they probably just went to fuel anyways, right?
Exactly. So this upcoming year, do you think… plans are really hard to make right now obviously just with everything going on in the world. But you’ve got some new tricks that you want to try?
I was going to try to get back to where I was at the end of last year. Last year was the year that I rode the least and it really showed in the competitions. All the girls are getting better. But yeah, my plans this summer is hoping that the ice melts really quickly. Putting my boat in the water as quick as I can. I doubt I’m going to go travel south before summer. I really wish I could, but if it’s the way it is now with Covid then you have to test you know three days before I go and test when you get there and test before you come back and then go in a hotel for X amount of time. I just can’t afford those kinds of trips. I’m hoping by the end of the summer that most people including myself would get the vaccine and then it might get easier to travel. So, I’m hoping in the fall I can go south. But for this summer, I’m hoping that Covid is not too bad to the point I can still run the school and contests, so I’ll just do what I can. But H2O School is a one man show, one woman show right now, so it’s hard to leave during the summer. So usually I would try and tackle as many competitions as possible before and after the summer, like early and late season. So now without traveling it’s a bit harder. I had a lot of those online events start pretty quickly. I won’t have the boat yet. So yeah, I’m going to wing it, that’s my plan. My plan is no plan.
Come visit, come visit early season.
Yeah, I can go west. Yeah, yeah. I can go west and where the ice melts earlier.
There’s no ice, we’re good, no ice year round.
Well, I might come earlier than later.
Exactly. Awesome. You’ve got any secrets you want to share with us, any rumors?
You heard anything, any excitement?
Well, here’s a bit of a secret. Well, it won’t be a secret anymore because I’m going to tell you. I’ve kind of been ignoring my social media this winter. Like A, I don’t have that much to tell. And I’m not working unfortunately I’m very sad about that because I really love my job, but because of Covid, there’s not as much work I guess. So, I’m not working this winter and I’m not doing that much. So A, there is not that much to show. And then B, I kind of get frustrated when I go on social media because everybody’s like surfing and doing this and doing that. It was getting me slightly depressed so I kind of had to just ignore it for a little bit. So, I kind of did that. So… that’s, yeah, there is that. I started to pick up drums a little bit. So, I did my college in music and I play piano and a play Latin percussion as you know. I play quite a few instruments, but I always was quite intrigued by the drums and I just happen to have a friend selling an electronic drum kit. It’s right beside me here.
So I’ve been trying to learn. I’m not really good. But I enjoy it.
Well next time we check in, practice because next time we check back with you, I know we’ve been talking a little bit about how we are going to do cool podcast about some of the surfing fundamentals. You’re one of the people that ingrained that in my brain and about the actual proper building blocks… about how to learn properly and we’re going to do something about that later. So practice.
You and I are pretty similar in coaching. You’re very technical as well. We usually get along and speak the same language you and I.
Yes, absolutely. But we’ll get together, and we’ll put someone else in with us and we’re going to kind of share all about those things. But maybe you can play the drums then for us.
We’ll see. And you know what else? I want to show, everybody keeps asking what are you doing in the winter. And of course, well the work… that I don’t work right now and I snowmobile and I snow skate. And a lot of people want to see the snow skate. They think it’s like a little snow blade thing. But no, skate is not really ski. Those skates like a like a skateboard on a ski is slightly hard to describe. I have one. The one that I actually usually ride is my truck right now, but I have another one…
Let’s see the other one.
So that’s a snow skate. Like a skateboard mounted on board. So that one is actually my short one. So, my big one is like a big.
I actually go in the back country with my big fat one. But yes. That is what a snow skate is for those who are wondering.
Well let’s get together and ride snowmobiles and do some backcountry riding because we’re stuck in frigid Canada right now. It’s the only thing we can do.
Yeah, I got time. That I got. The other thing that I find a bit frustrating with this Covid thing is usually I’m a very busy person and I’m involved with so many companies and this and that on top of working and trying to go snowmobiling or riding my days off. Then I want to go see my family for Christmas but I’m too busy working. And I want to go travel but now it’s like, oh I’ve got all the time in the world but I can’t go anywhere. Well I found that part a little bit frustrating.
I feel you on that 100%. I could be anywhere right now and I can’t be anywhere.
Yeah I know.
Well Caro it was great talking to you.
Great talking to you as always.
We’re going to do this again.
That sounds great.
Awesome. See you Caro.
See you Bryce.