Canadians are known for cold weather sports such as hockey, snowboarding and skiing. Surfing doesn’t really come to mind for many reasons given that they are coastal sports for warmer waters. Sure, you have surfers in Tofino, BC and perhaps, on the East Coast. But everything in between? Quite unusual and improbable. Guess what? Helene Filion is from Sudbury, Ontario who started her love of surfing on the Great Lakes. Yup, you heard it correctly, Great Lakes surfing is absolutely a thing! Sponsored by an all female company, Chick Sticks Surfboards, Helene is an extraordinary role model and source of inspiration for female surfers in Canada. Her spirit and encouragement towards ladies in the line-up has empowered women to continue their love of surfing and expanding the surf community.
Name: Helene Filion
Date of Birth: 12.31.1984
Height: 5’5″ (1.68 m)
Location: Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Local Break: Manatoulin Island, Lake Huron
Countries Surfed: Canada, USA, Dominican Republic, Barbados, Mexico, Spain
Experience (Years): 8
Inspirations: Carissa Moore
Even as a child, all I wanted to do was spend my summer on my dad’s windsurf board getting towed behind his boat. Finally, I took a trip out to British Columbia where I had planned to learn to surf in Tofino for 2 days. I thought it would be easy because I had watched Blue Crush 1000x but I totally got my ass handed to me. After being seriously humbled, I actually caught a good wave and surfed it for maybe 3 seconds and was addicted.
I stayed an additional three weeks, delayed my flight and almost didn’t come home 🙂 When I returned back to Ontario, I figured out you could surf on the Great Lakes and started developing the surf community in my area with a focus on encouraging young women to try the sport.
I’ll be honest, when I first started the Great Lakes, it was pretty intimidating because I was one of 3 girls that surfed the lakes, so the line-up was all guys that ripped. Even in competitions, I had to compete against males given that there were no other females out there! It really helped to have the guys take me under their wings to help me progress and feel comfortable. Now when I see another female in the line-up, I do what I can to share those positive vibes with them and to encourage them to keep going even if they got rocked!
Can you give us an idea of what your typical meals in a day would be?
Having a healthy diet is really important to me because surfing the Great Lakes in the winter is quite demanding. You must factor in the energy you need to face the frigid waters while having the strength to face 5-6 hours of surfing. Even wearing boots, gloves and a 6/5 mm wetsuit you can feel the freezing cold creep into your bones.
I make sure to balance lean proteins (which i get from a local farmer who specializes in raising their animals keeping ethics and welfare in mind) and load up on a tonne of organic veggies from our garden. Although, my husband always try to sneak in rice or potatoes in our meals due to his Peruvian heritage, and a meal isn’t a meal without potatoes for him!
Do you do any stretches or exercises pre- or post-surf?
I always do a 5 minute warm-up before surfing which includes a mixture of stretches and aerobics to get the blood pumping.
After a session during the summertime, I always do a good stretch. In the winter, my main priority is to hobble through the snow while my zipper of my wetsuit freezes to get to my car and warm up so my suit can thaw! There’s nothing like getting out of a cold, thick wetsuit in the middle of winter to give you a heck of a workout!
What do you grab for a post-surf snack?
Wintertime, I love my homemade Tom Yum (Lemongrass) Soup that has shrimp and a nice kick to warm you up from the inside. If it’s summer, without a doubt it will be Peruvian ceviche or homemade sushi!
What’s your favourite gear?
My whole quiver is now made up of Chick Sticks Surfboards. Aside from being sponsored by them, they’re my favourite because they are performance boards shaped specifically for women! I find that they really help improve my surfing and they’re really easy to duck dive with! Plus, they have some amazing colours and designs.
As for wetsuits, I primarily use Janga Wetsuits because their neoprene is the softest, gummiest and lightest that I have ever tried on. This provides me with maximized flexibility and warmth which is key for the lakes, and it makes quite a difference during competitions.
Recently, I’ve switched all my hardware over to Dorsal and they’re AMAZING!!! They make some really amazing fins and their leashes have outlasted and outperformed some of the fcs stuff that I used to have. Prices are great and love the colour selection they have available!
Finally, I have to admit that I never leave the house without my favourite Aerial Clothing sweatshirt and beanie to keep me warm post-surf!!