Birth Date: October 9, 1984
Hometown: Kamloops, BC, Canada
Sponsors: Billabong, adidas, YES Snowboards, Now Bindings, The Circle, Airhole Facemasks
Video: Yes Yes, It’s A Movie Too
Interviewed by Ben Gavelda
It’s not easy to make it to this list as a female. And the reason we picked Helen is not because she’s a total babe (because she is). It’s her tunnel vision and pure stoke that’s elevated her snowboarding status. While the snowboard world is primarily populated by hordes of hairy knuckle draggers, there’s a small tribe of women breaking down boundaries, and Helen is one of the leaders.—B.G.
Why did you start snowboarding?
My brother got me into it. I used to ski race, and he’d been snowboarding for a few years, so he made me try it ’cause he loved it so much. So I borrowed his extra board and tried it one day and switched instantly. It was just too much fun.
Sometimes there’s a lot of fear in snowboarding. How do you get over it and convince yourself that you’ll be all right?
I’ll be on top of a line scared out of my mind, and I’ll think about how at the end of the day I’ll be sitting on the couch and am I going to hate myself for not doing this line? Or am I going to know that I made an educated decision to back out because it was way to sketchy? And that’s what I think about, because I hate living with regret. So most of the time that’s what gets me going. ’Cause I’ll be so scared, I’ll be like, “I do not want to do this,” but I’ll be like, “I’m going to feel like such a pussy tonight,” because I know I can do it, and I know it’s just nerves stopping me. My peers wouldn’t let me get on top of the feature if it was that dangerous.
People know you for riding backcountry, but what came before that?
Once I started snowboarding I joined the snowboard club in Kamloops and I did halfpipe and boardercross contests. That’s what I loved doing, and I moved to Whistler to keep doing them. I remember all my roommates would be like, “Let’s go shred pow!” and I had no desire to shred pow because all I really knew were halfpipes and park. So I would go up with a bunch of people and dig out a halfpipe hit on those powder days that I now live for. I just didn’t appreciate it at the time, but over the years I started to ride with them on those days, and it was so much fun it was unbelievable. I later “acquired” a sled, and at that time there were a few other girls and I had a really good guy friend who started taking me out sledding, so I just got thrown into the deep end. We’d go out, and he was like, “Okay, you have to get to the top of that hill, so figure it out.” As much as those days really sucked and I hated them, I appreciate everything that he did for me and it’s made me a much more experienced backcountry rider.
Who are the people that inspire you?
Honestly there are a quite a few people in the industry, but I think the people that inspire me the most are all my good buddies that don’t have any involvement in the snowboard industry. They’re the ones that snowboard because they just love to snowboard. I appreciate those people the most because they’re not out there looking for a sponsor or looking for the next whatever—you know, trying to get famous, trying to get recognition. Those are the guys that work the night jobs. They inspire me because they want it the most. I find it frustrating that a lot of the snowboarding community and industry doesn’t snowboard, and it’s insane to me. And I understand it’s a job and it pays your bills, but you have to do it because you love it. It should be something you enjoy to do.
What’s it like now that you do this for a living?
I feel so blessed. Sometimes I’m sitting here and I’m like, “How the hell did this happen?” I will never take it for granted. I don’t think I’m lucky, I think I worked my ass off for it and I’ve gone through some really shitty times and some great times, but regardless, I’m very blessed to be in this position. I hope I can motivate people to enjoy every moment of snowboarding, too. I’ve been so focused and so driven that I have a hard time living in the moment. But at the same time you have sit back once in a while and see what you’ve accomplished and be thankful that you’ve gotten to that point—because the point you’re at is where you’ve been looking to get for a long time—and now you’re there, so you need to appreciate it. Still, I will never keep going in this career if I’m not feeling snowboarding. You have to wake up and want to shred. And I hope, and I think, you can see that in the way I ride.