Canadian skier and filmmaker Rory Bushfield won the first-ever Splash championship trophy on Tuesday’s season finale by out-diving his fellow finalists, actor Drake Bell and actress Nicole Eggert.
He talked to PEOPLE Wednesday about his victory, forging on after suffering a ruptured eardrum and how he continues to draw inspiration from his late wife, skier Sarah Burke.
Congratulations! You have quite the trophy from the show.
Oh yes, I carry it everywhere with me! I don’t know what I’m going to do with that big trophy.
What was the best part of your Splash experience?
The best part was the people involved. I got to dive with Greg Lougainis and I got to train with Kareem Abdul-Jabar every day. He’s such an exceptional athlete and to watch him wrap his mind around diving – I come from a flipping, spinning background in skiing. But Kareem had never done a backflip in his life and he’s 6′ 5″ and it was amazing to watch that. My competitors were amazing doing things they’ve never done before.
Is this show too dangerous?
No, it’s just water. I ruptured my eardrum but I should have been wearing an earplug. Nicole Eggert landed on her back and she bruised herself pretty good and was sore for a while, I’m sure. But I think it was pretty reasonable for what it was.
How’s your ear?
It’s still ringing. Last night when I went to bed, it was still ringing and I was like, “Oh my God!” It just doesn’t hold pressure well yet.
It hurt just watching you dive.
Yeah, it sucked! I didn’t have a good earplug. But after the last show I got this new earplug and now it’s good. I can go in the water with this one and surf.
What would your late wife Sarah Burke say of your diving achievements?
She’d be proud, but she’d be proud of whatever I did. She was always very supportive of things I’d do that might not necessarily be … normal! I imagine she’s smiling. She’s always got my back.
How does Sarah continue to inspire you?
Sarah always said, “Live, love, laugh,” and to believe in yourself. Humans can do so much more than they give themselves credit for. Sarah was an amazing woman along with being the world’s best half-pipe skier. She did most of the lobbying to get half-pipe skiing into the Olympics. It’s going to debut in Sochi, Russia, [at the 2014 Winter Games]. It’s going to be awesome. I’ll be there. It will be an honor to see that event go down and it was one of her life goals and a huge accomplishment and she pulled it off.
Tell me about the Sarah Burke Foundation.
We are carrying out Sarah’s ideals. She did a lot of work with St. Jude’s Hospital. She started a girls’ week ski camp in the summer on the glacier in Whistler. We wanted to continue with that. We just awarded three grants for $7,500 each for three kids who are freestyle skiers to help them train.
Are you still skiing competitively?
I ski in obscure competitions. I heli-ski in these back-country freestyle competitions where we jump off of cliffs and land in the powder.
What’s next for you?
I just kind of take what comes at me and do my best with it. I’m going to go home and coach the girls’ week this summer at the camp Sarah set up.
You’re quite the outdoorsman. How did you like living in Los Angeles while you were doing Splash?
At heart I’m a skier and a surfer, an adventurer that loves the outdoors. I was in L.A. the whole time I did Splash and after I ruptured my eardrum I couldn’t surf, so I’d go to the pool and I’d jump on the trampoline and I’d spend a lot of time in traffic. I’m from a small town, so when I’d get in the car at 5 p.m., it was frustrating. I don’t know how people live down here and deal with that every single day. I just don’t get it.
You turn 30 at the end of the month. How are you going to celebrate?
I will probably go surfing! Maybe a big wave will come in and that’s how I will celebrate. I’ll have my earplugs in!