Victoria Feige figures the hours spent at Kits Pool improving her duck dives and paddling is one secret in her para surfing success.
Relocating in October from Vancouver to Hawaii — more specifically to the surfing mecca of Oahu's North Shore — also helped up her game, which was on full display at the 2021 International Surfing Association Para World Championships in Pismo Beach, Calif., last week where Feige won gold for a third straight year.
"I'm so incredibly happy," she said, speaking from Hawaii. "I've really been pushing my surfing ... and knew if I put together two decent waves I had a really good chance."
World championship number three in the women's kneel division ties Feige for the most world titles won in para surfing history.
Fellow Vancouverite Ling Pai also brought home a medal from California, finishing third in the visually impaired division.
Parksville, B.C, surfing newbie Trevor Hirschfield, wound up 17th in the prone division.
If the name sounds familiar, it should.
Hirschfield is captain of the Canadian Wheelchair Rugby Team and a two-time Paralympic Games medallist.
"Rugby is still my number one sport," said Hirschfield. "But going to the para [surfing] world championships and, for lack of a better term, getting my ass handed to me, made me a little more hungry to get better at the sport."
Hirschfield says there are challenges to growing para surfing. For instance, athletes in his category need assistance to catch a wave and again at the finish, and that means training volunteers. In Tofino, where he learned to surf, there's no formal adaptive program in place yet.
Still, within the para surfing community, there's talk of the sport being added to the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of surfing, which made its Olympic debut in Tokyo in 2020.
That's got Hirschfield daring to dream about wearing Canadian colours in both sports at the 2028 Paralympics.
"I mean, that would be amazing, to go and compete in surfing as well as wheelchair rugby," he said.
Feige, who is notable in her professional career as the first North American clinical physiotherapist who uses a wheelchair, also sees a Paralympic future for para surfing.
She came to the sport from an active and thrill-seeking youth in snowboarding, skateboarding and soccer.
At 18, her T-12 vertebrae was crushed attempting to land a big air snowboard jump. She tried adaptive skiing and played wheelchair basketball for a time, but in 2016 was captivated by the burgeoning world of para surfing.
"I met people from all over the world — Australia, South Africa — who were incredible surfers, doing cut-backs, getting barrelled, there was this one guy on a wave ski who could do airs. It completely changed what I thought was possible for adaptive surfing. And it changed what was possible for me," she said.
Feige said "bleak times" during the pandemic sparked her to reorganize her life around surfing. Two months after moving to Hawaii, and another world title to her name, there's no looking back.
"The waves here are incredible and I'm managing to get so much better," she said.