Castlegar native and provincial figure skating champion Cole Stanbra returned to town recently and has been helping out with the Castlegar Skating Club.
Fittingly, the club is where Stanbra got his start. Now, he is a professional skater who skates on Royal Cruise Lines ships.
“I represented the Castlegar Skating Club,” he said. “I represented them at six national championships. In 2002, I was B.C. Novice Men’s champion, representing Castlegar. I later placed fifth at nationals that year.”
Stanbra first hit the ice at age 5 when his father put him in hockey. He only played one year of hockey and than gravitated towards other activities such as piano and competitive swimming. He returned to the ice in 1998 at the age of 11 when he started figure skating.
After finishing fifth at nationals, Stanbra moved from Castlegar to Vancouver to further his training. In 2005, he moved out to Barrie, Ontario and finished off his senior career there. In 2008, he began working on the cruise lines as a professional figure skater.
“Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has ten ships in the fleet with ice rinks,” he explained. “We have a cast of ten. I’ve been performing in the shows for four years now. I leave for my next one on Jan. 13. It’s called the Adventure of the Seas. That’ll be out of San Juan, Puerto Rico. That’s funny because it’s the first ship I performed on in 2008. It’ll be interesting going back to the same one.”
Stanbra says that skating on a ship is not as difficult as it might seem although it’s not without the occasional hurdle.
“Sometimes when there’s tropical storms and hurricanes it can get a bit rough,” he said. “But for the size of the ships, they’re pretty steady. Which is good for us.”
In the shows, Stanbra usually performs in front of 7-800 people with all around seating.
“The audience is really up front and close,” he said. “It’s nice as performers because you can actually get close to the audience and interact with them. They seem to really respond well to the shows. It’s a lot of fun.”
Performing on cruise ships is a lot less stressful than performing for judges in competitions, says Stanbra.
“I still have the same adrenaline rush I did when I was competing,” he said. “But instead you have an audience that’s paid a lot of money for the cruise and is expecting a good show. A lot of people at the show are from Miami so they haven’t seen a lot of ice skating. So it’s new to them. Especially seeing it out on a cruise ship and seeing the shows and the different costumes. It’s great seeing their reactions. I always pay attention to the audience and I enjoy seeing the different expressions on people’s face.”
Currently, Stanbra is on a three month break between cruise ships. He enjoys getting back to Castlegar and visiting his parents and grandmother and friends.
“I actually haven’t skated here (at the complex) in a few years because I’m living out in Vancouver,” he said. “So when I do get back it’s nice to drop in on the club and just see some of the young kids. See how the young and up and coming skaters are doing.”
He also enjoys giving back by offering tips to the young skaters and acting as a kind of role model.
“I know skating’s not huge around here,” said Stanbra. “But when I go out there and see the kids asking me questions, I certainly don’t hesitate to help them out and give them a few tips. So that’s been really fun. It brings back a lot of memories too, to skate here. It’s been great.”
Professional skater Cole Stanbra poses with Castlegar Skating Club members (from left) Andrea Poznikoff, Sara Lefurgey, Annika Cheveldave, Zoey Crockart, Megan Cousins, and Sara Cousins at practice on Friday.