Encinitas surfer Wheeler Hasburgh recently won the under-18 boys national championship at the Rip Curl Canadian Nationals for the second year in a row. The Canadian-born 13-year-old bested the competition at Wickaninnish Beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
“I think I’m one of the youngest, which is pretty cool,” said Wheeler, who just finished seventh grade at Oak Crest Middle School.
Wheeler’s win qualifies him to compete for the Canadian National Team at the International Surfing Association World Jr. Championships in Huntington Beach in October.
“Canada is underrated for surfing,” said Wheeler, who traveled to Canada about a week early to train and get a feel for the waves ahead of the competition.
Despite his early arrival, he admits he was nervous in his first heats, competing first in the under-16 division. He said due to his nerves he went out a little too cautiously in the finals and placed fourth. The next day for the U-18 event, Wheeler said he was more relaxed and got a confidence boost—he knew he had to go strong.
“I was in the right mindset emotionally and physically and I felt like I surfed one of my best heats for sure and ended up winning,” Wheeler said.
Wheeler was “over the moon” to win back-to-back championships—his smile was huge while being hoisted up by fellow surfers and as he took the podium with his gold medal.
Wheeler was born in the Rocky Mountains in a town called Invermere, British Columbia in Canada and grew up in Sayulita, Mexico in a surfing family in a surfing town. He is completely fluent in Spanish, having gone to school there for seven years.
Wheeler said everyone in the town surfed and his mom and dad, both surfers, often took him out into the water.
“When I was younger I wasn’t even interested in surfing, I just never really got a feel for it,” he said. “My dad said I could do whatever I wanted with surfing but first he wanted me to just catch a wave, stand up on a wave and do a cut-back. Once I did that my dad said ‘What do you want to do now? Do you want to quit?’ I said ‘no!’”
Wheeler had officially got a feel for the waves and the sport, surfing more and improving every day. He started competing when he was eight.
“My backhand has really improved from when I started,” Wheeler said of what he considers his specialty. “I usually rely on my backhand vertical and fins out to get scores in heats.”
The family moved to Encinitas three years ago and he has continued to compete in events in Mexico, U.S. and Canada. He’s sponsored by local clothing company GROM USA and his surfboard shaper is out of Brazil, Wetworks Global Boards.
Surfing has allowed him to travel the world and rack up amazing experiences—two years ago he competed at ISA World Juniors in Hyuga, Japan and his family found a secret spot to surf that he names as one of his favorite places in the world to surf.
“I love traveling and so does my family,” Wheeler said. “We all love to explore new places and cultures.”
With his family, he has enjoyed surfing Playa Negra in Costa Rica and this summer they will spend two months surfing in Mexico.
Wheeler is in the ocean at least two hours every day. At Oak Crest he has Independent Study PE so he surfs every other day in the morning. On days that he does not have ISPE he will wake up “super early” to surf before school or get in a session after school—his favorite local spots are Seaside or D Street.
He competes in Western Surfing Association and Scholastic Surf Series events and is part of the dominant Oak Crest surf team—he will compete with his team at the NSSA National Interscholastic Championships at Salt Creek Beach Park in Dana Point this weekend.
He is looking forward to the ISA World Juniors, where the competition is fierce with so many top surfers.
“Everyone wants to be the best surfer, it’s really fun and challenging but it’s definitely worth it to work for it,” Wheeler said.
Over a milkshake at Handel’s, Wheeler reflected on his goals in the sport—his most epic dream is to be a professional surfer in the World Surfing League, where the best surfers compete all over the world. He would love for his surfing to take him to places like Australia, Fiji, South Africa and Indonesia.
He thinks he can make it— he has learned that having the belief you can do it makes all the difference, just like when his dad first coaxed him to get up on a wave and catch the feeling.
“Just follow your dreams and always believe in yourself. Always be positive and open-minded,” Wheeler said.