The teenage surf star obtained Canadian citizenship and now sets his sights on the Olympics

Teenage surfing prodigy Erin Brooks won her fight for Canadian citizenship, opening the door for her to compete for Canada at the Paris Olympics.

Brooks, 16, was born in Texas and raised in Hawaii, but has Canadian ties through his American-born father, Jeff, who has dual American and Canadian citizenship, and his grandfather, who was born and raised in Montreal.

Brooks’ citizenship application was initially rejected. But Immigration Minister Marc Miller has apparently changed his mind.

Surf Canada confirmed the government’s change of course.

“I love Canada. I have never been more proud to wear Maple Leaf,” said Erin Brooks. “To Minister Mark Miller and MP Jenny Kwan, you have changed my life. I believe I will do something really special for my country thanks to your gift of citizenship.”

Kwan, the NDP’s immigration critic, helped defend Brooks.

The last chance to qualify for the Olympics is at the ISA World Championships in Puerto Rico in February.

Brooks is considered by many to be a potential medal challenger at the Olympics due to the tough conditions of the left barrel at Teahupo’o in Tahiti, where the Olympic surfing event is held.

He won a silver medal at the ISA World Surfing Games in El Salvador in June and gold at the ISA World Junior Championships in June 2022.

Dom Domic, CEO of Surf Canada, welcomed the citizenship news.

“After more than four years, it looks like the Brookses finally have their happy ending,” he said in an email. “Personally, I am delighted that Minister Miller will right the wrongs of the past and finally our lost Canadians will be officially welcomed home to where they have always belonged.”

Canada’s citizenship laws are complex, with amendments changing the rules in 2009 and 2015. But essentially Bill C-37 of 2009 ended the extension of citizenship to foreign-born second generations.

In an October letter explaining its decision not to grant a “discretionary grant of citizenship,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada says Brooks did not meet the requirements.

“The application is rejected on the basis that the applicant is not stateless, has not experienced special or unusual hardship, nor has he or she provided services of exceptional value to Canada that would justify a discretionary grant of Canadian citizenship,” the letter said.

It was the latest in a series of setbacks for the Brooks family.

Their home in Lahaina, Maui, burned down during the recent wildfires and Brooks’ mother is battling cancer. The family now calls Tofino, BC, their home when they are not on the road nine to ten months a year with their daughter.

The Canadian Olympic Committee also backed Brooks’ application for citizenship, with CEO David Shoemaker saying the teen has demonstrated “her sincere commitment to competing for Canada and being Canadian.”

In March 2022, Surfing Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee asked the International Surfing Association (ISA) to allow Brooks to compete for Canada, as his citizenship application had been submitted, but not completed.

The ISA accepted the request but changed its mind last June, saying “this decision was made incorrectly and not in accordance with applicable ISA rules.”

The ISA suspended Brooks’ eligibility to compete for Canada, saying it would re-evaluate the decision if “proof of citizenship with a verified Canadian government document” was provided.

That prevented Brooks from competing at the Pan American Games and the ISA World Championships. He has continued to compete in the World Surf League Qualifying Series.

Brooks has been contacted by other countries interested in her talent.

His grandmother, on his mother’s side, is a German citizen and also has Italian ties. His paternal side of the family also has Irish lineage.

Canada failed to qualify any surfers for the Tokyo Olympics, where surfing made its debut in the games.

Canadian Cody Young was called up at the last minute for the Tokyo games due to a COVID-19-related opening. But the Hawaii-based athlete couldn’t arrive in time due to pandemic-related travel logistics.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 13, 2024.

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