Surfer Cody Young was born and raised in Hawaii, but despite the distance he feels in touch with his Canadian roots.
The 19-year-old holds dual American-Canadian citizenship, but he will be wearing the maple leaf as he trains on some of the words best wave locations in preparation to compete at the highest level—surfing is set to make its Olympic debut in 2020 in Japan, and Young hopes to be one of the first 20 men to suit up.
"I'm really excited to be representing Canada coming up in the next few years with the Olympics on the line," he said. "I'll hopefully be qualifying a spot for Canada in the Olympics. There's a lot of work to do, still, but I'm really excited to see what unfolds."
Like freestyle ski athletes over the past decade, Young explained that competing at the Games wasn't something he'd ever dreamed about because it wasn't possible. Now that times have changed, however, it's a passion.
"I never was really able to look at the Olympics as something I wanted to do because it wasn't possible for our sport," he said. "It's a new idea, but I want nothing more in my career than to represent Canada in the Olympics."
While qualifying as a Canadian might be a smoother path to the Games than trying to make it under the American banner, with countless pros from Hawaii and California, Young respects the British Columbian and Nova Scotian competitors who will also try to qualify. As well, he hopes that with the attention the Games will bring to surfing, along with emerging technology, more people will give it a try resulting in Canada being able to produce more talent in the years to come.
"It's a chance to open up the whole country to it, even though most of Canada is landlocked," he said. "With wave pools coming, you never know what the future holds."
That said, Young is grateful for his upbringing on Maui's beaches, where the competition was stiff and drove him to be the best he could be.
"You grow up learning to surf here," said Young of Hawaii. "You can't live more than 30 minutes from the ocean," he said. "It's a way of life here. You're just born into it—you don't really have a choice.
"A lot of kids here take up surfing at an early age and it's just whether or not they have the drive to keep it going."
Young will be in Whistler this week as part of Boardriders Week, where he will pop up at the Quiksilver location in Whistler Village for the Canadian premiere of Generations, in which he is featured. He will also hold a Q&A session following the movie. Doors are at 6 p.m. while the movie will screen around 7 p.m.
Young explained he regularly came to British Columbia when he was growing up, spending months on end here during the winter—admittedly an ironic turn, escaping Hawaii's winters for Canada's.
"I'm really excited to come over to Whistler. I spent a lot of my childhood there learning how to ski and snowboard," said Young, who also regularly visited his father's hometown of Toronto.
However, Young hasn't spent much time here in the summer, acknowledging that his first time surfing our waters was "just a few months ago" in Tofino.
As for the movie itself, Young said while he hasn't seen it, the scuttlebutt is that it is a must-see for surf-film buffs. Tickets are free at the Quiksilver store.
"It's basically showcasing riders all over the world. I've heard it's got some good music and really good clips. I'm really looking forward to watching it," he said. "I don't know how many clips I have, but I apparently have my own section, so that's pretty cool."
Boardriders Week will also feature a photography showcase at the Quiksilver store on July 12. Bryanna Bradley, Erin Hogue and Ilanna Barkusky, three of Canada's top action sports photographers, will show off their work from 6 to 9 p.m. Some shots will be auctioned off with proceeds going to the Boardriders Foundation.