Photos by: Nora Pinephrine

It all started at a cousin’s Hawaiian wedding. At least, that’s what brought Janelle Cadamia to the island of Oahu in the first place. Finding herself in one of the world’s most famous surfing destinations, though, the next thing on the energetic young woman’s itinerary was, of course, to surf! What Janelle didn’t yet know, however, was that jumping on that board would kickstart a lifelong passion and a rewarding career.

After graduating from high school in Langley, B.C. in 2004, Janelle, like many other young adventure-seekers, decided she wasn’t quite ready for university. Instead, she chose to spend the next few years travelling and studying photography. Then, thanks to that wedding, Janelle got her first taste of Hawaiian surf life and decided it was such a great fit that she spent the next four years living there and volunteering for the non-profit humanitarian organization, Surfing the Nations.

Starting out as their photographer, it wasn’t long before Janelle took on the role of full-fledged surf instructor and mentor to local kids, many of who came to the organization from low-income families or homeless shelters. “We offered them the same opportunities as other kids would get, ” Janelle explains. “It’s a great sport and a positive activity for kids, especially in Hawaii.”

In addition to riding the world famous Hawaiian waves and inspiring local youth, Janelle also had the opportunity to participate in Surf the Nations’ humanitarian programs, in her case travelling to the Middle East, The Philippines and Bangladesh, where, in addition to hosting surf schools, she also worked on community building projects. In the end, it was this blend of recreation, sport and non-profit development work that inspired Janelle to make it her career. “I wanted to learn how to run sustainable recreational programs that build stronger communities,” she says.

Back to school

When Janelle’s U.S. visa expired in 2012, she found it was the perfect time to return to Canada and attend university. After looking into various tourism and recreation programs, Janelle eventually attended an open house at Capilano University and found that the Outdoor Recreation Management Diploma was just what she was looking for.

A major attraction of the OREC learning experience for Janelle was the four-month practicum that students are required to complete midway through the program. Janelle, especially, saw it as a major opportunity to find her place in industry. “I applied to 15 different companies, and I listed the pros and cons of each one!” she remembers. In the end, Janelle says she ended up struggling trying to decide between a kayak company and a female-staffed surfing company in Tofino, B.C. called Surf Sister Surf School.

Looking back now, Janelle finds it hard to believe that she initially chose the kayaking job! She admits the big attraction was that they offered housing, which can be difficult to find in remote locations. When the kayaking opportunity suddenly fell through, however, Janelle realized the surf school was what she’d wanted all along. “I would be antsy if I had to spend all day in a kayak, knowing there were waves!” she says.


Believe it or not, Janelle, with her years of experience surfing in Hawaii and internationally, admits she was near the bottom in terms of skill level in her new job. “They were all super good,” she says of her fellow Surf Sister instructors, noting that one had recently won Tofino’s annual Queen of the Peak competition. Compared with most other places she’d been, Janelle also found that Tofino’s culture truly encouraged girls to take up the sport. “There’s usually a lot of pressure to compete with the guys, but a lot of girl surfers there are right up to par with what the guys are doing. The culture really encourages girls to surf. A lot of places don’t have that kind of equality.”

As for the program itself, “It ran perfectly,” says Janelle. “It was exactly the type of business I wanted to learn from for my practicum.” Janelle attributes much of this to local surf veteran Krissy Montgomery, who owns the company. Inspired by her experience at Surf Sister, Janelle has since completed the OREC certificate and laddered into Capilano University’s Bachelor of Tourism Management degree program.

Looking ahead, Janelle is excited to continue learning the business skills needed to excel in her chosen industry, as well as the social awareness to be a positive force in her community. Cautiously, Janelle shares a bit about her personal dream of developing surf programs around the world that would eventually be run by local people and provide opportunities for local kids to surf. “Not just rich people who want to travel,” she adds.

Whatever her eventual career, Janelle feels that she’s found the right path. “I just want to be a part of building strong communities, healthy recreation and protecting our natural resources,” she says. “Any combination of those things would be my dream job.”

Submitted by Marketing & Communications