I first met Helene whilst surfing in Mexico in Michoacán.
I always find it truly amazing that you can be on the other side of the world, in the middle of nowhere, yet bump into someone in the line up that's from your hometown.
Now whenever I paddle out here in Newquay, Helene is usually there, tearing it up on her hand plane, surfing or dropping waves on her wooden belly board, solo, with her husband Steve or with the 'Fringe Crew' - A group the duo formed here in Newquay for anyone riding alternative surf craft.
I love seeing people having fun in the water, no matter what they are riding, so it was great getting the chance to ask Helene a few questions:
Name: Hélène LeBlanc
Local break: Fistral, Newquay, Cornwall UK
Craft of choice: I go with the conditions; swell size, winds, tides. My go to at the moment is my new Karma 9’2 chop tail longboard or you will find me bodysurfing.
Helene in Sri Lanka with her trusty Dick Pearce belly board
Born & raised in Canada, when did you first fall in love with the sea?
I was born in Montreal, Canada. I was lucky to go to the beach every year, on the coast of Maine/Massachusetts and always love the water. I tried surfing a few times on holiday but seriously started to surf when I met my husband in Costa Rica and then moved to Cornwall, in 2008.
Last year you had some great results in the UK bodysurfing Championships (Silver UK & Bronze EUR), do you enjoy competition or are you in it for the love?
Well, that was my first competition ever. The waves were a few foot bigger than anything I had ever surfed before, so I was shitting myself. I had stupidly told pretty much anyone that wanted to hear that I was gonna win it!! So the pressure was pretty mad. The girls were ripping out there and I have much to learn, not sure if comps are for me. Free surfing is better…
Helene competing in the 2021 Euro bodysurfing championships / photo Charlie Raymond Kent
Favourite UK surf brand / Company:
I don't really do brands. I prefer to be label-less…
How would you describe your local surf community?
The line up here has changed a lot over the last 10 years. Although the surf here is getting busier all the time, I think the community is growing with it, being more inclusive, with a lot more women in the line up.
Helene and good friend (and local legend) Gwyn Haslock at Fistral, Newquay
How do you pump yourself up when you know the waves aren't perfect?
Choosing the right weapon for the conditions makes you always have a good time. I have learned that over the last few years and it's really opened the world to me, making me enjoy every session.
You run a successful smoothie/juice bar called Kook, here in Newquay, what's your favourite thing about your business?
Love the community in Newquay. I have amazing support from the locals, local businesses and many holiday makers that have been coming down for years. It gets pretty mental in the summer but I love my job.
Helene cruising on her 9'2 Chop tail by Karma surfboards
Have you noticed an increase in women who bodysurf?
I have only been bodysurfing for the last couple of years. I wouldn't say there is a visible increase and I wish more surfers would take to it. The water knowledge you get from bodysurfing would definitely help a lot of people out there. Any embarrassing moments in the water?
Too many to count, I think that's part of it. Losing my bikini bottom in crystal clear water could be one, lucky my leash was on…
Helene head to toe in neoprene and ready for some cold water action!
How does bodysurfing compare to surfing on a board?
Nothing beats a good session on a board. However, the feeling of your body sliding along a wave is totally different and intense. The freedom of being without a board and being able to simply dive under any big sets coming at you is very liberating. It's not difficult to get the basics of bodysurfing down but it's quite a challenge to get good at it, Mark Cunningham good… Getting the right hand plane helps.
Any other hobbies? Stamp collecting, world of Warcraft?
I love food and love cooking. I do everything from scratch. I also love traveling and discovering new places....
Thanks Helene, see you in the water soon!