Sports Other Sports

Athlete of the Week: Ariel Amaral

By Gisele Winton Sarvis, Special to Postmedia Network

GISELE WINTON SARVIS/Special to the Enterprise-Bulletin
Ariel Amaral, 34, who trains in Collingwood and is a sponsored racer with Blu Wave SUP, is part of the nine-member Team Canada heading to the International Surf Association’s World Championships in Denmark Sept. 1 to 10. She’s seen competing at the recent Ontario SUP race held during Sidelaunch Days in Collingwood.

GISELE WINTON SARVIS/Special to the Enterprise-Bulletin Ariel Amaral, 34, who trains in Collingwood and is a sponsored racer with Blu Wave SUP, is part of the nine-member Team Canada heading to the International Surf Association’s World Championships in Denmark Sept. 1 to 10. She’s seen competing at the recent Ontario SUP race held during Sidelaunch Days in Collingwood.

Ariel Amaral has all the momentum she needs going into the World Paddleboard Championship in Denmark Sept. 1 to 10.

By placing first at last weekend's Paddle 4 the Cure event in Barrie and first at Sidelaunch Days races earlier in August, she completed the Ontario Stand Up Paddle (SUP) series in first place for both the women's elite and overall divisions.

"It went really, really well and we raised about $15,000 for breast cancer," said the 34-year-old Barrie resident.

Amaral is part of a nine-member Team Canada competing at the International Surf Association (ISA) event, which is attracting athletes from 30 countries. It's her first time competing in an international event.

"I am really excited. This is like a lifelong dream come true to be able to compete for my country," she said.

Amaral is a Blue Wave SUP Academy racer and coach based in Wasaga Beach with the academy based in Collingwood. Amaral is a sponsored athlete by the company but receives no government sponsorship.

So she started a gofundme.com account: Ariel's Team Canada Denmark Dream, to help offset the cost. She has met her $6,000 goal but the account remains open where people can continue to make donations and/or follow her progress, as she will be posting updates.

Her first race will be an 18-kilometre flat-water race in Copenhagen on Saturday, followed by an ocean technical race a week later in Cold Hawaii.

"You go out through the surf and turn around the buoys and back through the surf and then back out, so you do laps for about three kilometres," she said.

Normally athletes have to qualify for the world championships through international races but it's tough for Canadian athletes because most of the qualifiers take place in Europe and there is no money provided to Canadian athletes, Amaral explained.

So this year the ISA allowed for an application process whereby athletes had to prove both their standings and greater involvement in the sport.

Amaral qualified based on her last year's standing of being second in the province and her involvement in coaching and organizing events such as the Paddle 4 the Cure.

In 2014, she won the Ontario SUP series women's championship and the elite women's championships.

This year she competed at the Eastern Canadian Championships in Port Credit in July and the Ontario SUP series races, including the event held during Sidelaunch Days, where she won both the eight-kilometre race and the sprint event.

There are two other Ontario racers representing Canada at the worlds: Kody Peekstok of Port Dover, who is the No. 1 overall and men's elite racer in the province, and Danielle Holdsworth the No. 2 women's elite and overall racer.

Amaral has been a paddle boarder for the last seven years after first learning how to surf.

She learned how to surf in the North Atlantic Ocean in the winter while going to university in Halifax.

"The first time we tried it, the water was 0.7 degrees Celsius and it was minus 40 out, but we were determined to try surfing," she said. She was wearing a thick winter wet suit with a hood and gloves.

"I've always been drawn to water sports so the surfing was really fun," she said.

"I took a year of travelling to Australia and went surfing. It was an amazing experience. That was the fuel for it," she said.

She got married in Australia and the couple visited Hawaii on the way home. At the time the waves were small, so they tried stand-up paddle boarding.

"It was a blast. So when I moved to Barrie afterward, I felt a little bit landlocked but I tried a board from Surf Ontario. Right away I got a board but I had no idea about the racing side of it," she said.

The next summer she completed a course that ended with a seven-mile race on the ocean.

"I was in tears of joy when I crossed the finish line. I was hooked," she said.

The couple now has a two-year-old son Kai who comes to the SUP events. On Sunday he was riding on his mother's board on Kempenfelt Bay and fell in.

Amaral said she is glad he got that scary experience over with at such a young age. He was wearing his life jacket and she scooped him out.

giselewintonsarvis@yahoo.com

Twitter.com/GiseleSarvis