We arrived in Montreal during a heat wave. The temperature was approaching 40 degrees Celsius when you factor in the humidity and there was only one place where you wanted to be, in the water. We got to “La vague a Guy”, one of the city’s river surfing spot and there were at least fifteen surfers in the lineup. We didn’t know what Igor looked like, only that he was an avid SUP surfer and a local enthusiast you could see at the wave almost everyday.
Then we saw that guy surf and knew right away it was Igor. He’d catch the wave on his SUP, then kneel on it and try to help other less experienced surfers catch the wave by holding on to them or their board when they went by. It was pretty awesome to see. It did fit right in with the laid back, happy vibe that was going on that day and according to Igor, everyday.
“It’s a cool surfing vibe here. People come for the day, they set-up hamacs. If there are a lot of people in the lineup, they get out, chill, play rugby or whatever.”
Not that it would change anything if it wasn’t the case. Igor would surf regardless. In fact, I don’t think anything could keep him away from it, nothing has. He started riding waves back in his home country, Venezuela and quite enjoyed it. The situation over there had his parents convince him to move away in hopes he could have a better life.
“Before contemplating coming here, I was gonna go to Australia but that was very far from home. Then, I was looking for something a little closer. I remember my father saying when I was a kid, if ever a war would explode, he would go and hide in the woods of Canada. I decided to take a look at Canada. I saw Quebec and realized I could kill two birds with one stone, learn a little bit of French, a little bit of English, so off we go. I ended up staying.”
For the first two years he was here, Igor did not surf. In fact, he didn’t know it was possible. Until one day, a guy called him and left him a voicemail saying he had been surfing in Montreal and to give him a call if he wanted to come along. Igor said he must have tried to reach the guy 20 times before he finally picked up. He was given the address for Habitat 67. The next day, he was there.
“I went there and there was a surfer on the wave. As soon as he got out, I asked him if there was anywhere I could get a board in the city. He gave me a place. I drove there right away to buy a board and everything I needed and came back to the wave. It was expensive but whatever.”
He was content. He could surf again. It took him a couple of tries to get te hang of it. River surfing is a little different than what he was used to, but on the wave, the feeling was the same. Awesome. That was over 10 years ago and the excitement hasn’t faded. In fact, it has only gotten better. A couple of years ago, a friend introduced him to SUP surfing.
“He invited me to one of those Battle of the Paddle and lent me a board. I went. Obviously I came last, after the ambulance but I was so freaking stoked. I loved it! Right away I asked where I could buy a board. So he was like: “Take that one. I’ll sell you that one. Pay me later.” I took that board and slowly, I have been exchanging my surf quiver for a SUP quiver.”
Over the last five years, Igor went from 8 surfboards and 1 SUP, to his current setup of 5 SUP and 3 surfboards. But why such a change? What makes SUP surfing better? The answer is pretty easy, he can surf more and more often.
“Every time I have a chance to either Surf or SUP, I end up SUPing because it’s as much fun and you’re not dependant on the conditions whatsoever. You can have fun with it no matter what. You go to Habitat, the line up is too long, you paddle to one of the little waves and there you go, you can have your fun there.”
Igor is always motivated to get out. From the end of April to mid-December, he surfs in Montreal. When a good eastern swell comes in, he makes the drive to the East coast where he meets friends for good ocean surfing. Four to five times a week, he is out on the water with his big smile and his stoke. The last two years have been very busy as Igor and his partner have had to raise a young man but they still believe in the importance of making time for themselves.
“My girlfriend has the best way to describe this. She says: “Get out, go surf, you’re stressed, you’re gonna be happy.” And that’s what it is. When you get in the water, it’s like as if the water washes your problems away. It’s a little escapade. That’s why when people are stressed in the lineup, we try to avoid that. We let them go for the wave. You let them go, you let that karma leave. It’s just released.”
So, in a city where a lot of surfers are out there and the surf time is at a premium, why is Igor out helping people catch the wave instead of focusing on getting his dose in?
“I sometimes enjoy more watching people surf than surfing myself. If I can have somebody have a smile on their face, it makes me even much more happy. The other day, there was a mom here with her two kids. She was bringing them in an inflatable donut. I offered to take the kids out on the board. I first took the older brother on the board. We caught the wave, he surfed. You should have seen the smile on this kid’s face. That thing made my week, you have no idea. If you can help somebody why not do it?”
Fair question! Why not help them? Why not try surfing yourself? If you are still unsure, I suggest hanging out at “La vague a Guy”. You might stumble on some fine folks more than happy to help you, and if you bump into Igor, he might even do more than that.
“I will put you in the water, guaranteed, because surf is like the Mafia. Kelly said this a long time ago but it’s true. Once you’re in, you’re never out. You just need one wave. That’s the beauty of it, you can be having the most miserable day of your life and one wave is gonna make your day. That is certain.”