Downhill skateboarding champion, Bear Whisperer and former ice luger – Elena tells us about how she fell in love with our sport, Bacon Girls Crew and killing it in open class and developing a new LY board for the ladies
Hello Elena, how are you?
Doing pretty damn good thanks!
Looking forward to the weekend?
Definitely, gonna hit up the beach at Byron Bay on the Gold Coast!
Are you Australian?
No sir, just here for the winter, escaping the blizzards back home in Canada.
Where are you from?
Calgary, Alberta, Canada!
What was it like growing up there?
Really sweet. Hot summers and snow covered winters made for so many sports opportunities and adventures! And with the mountains so close I definitely spent plenty of my time there.
Did you ever run into bears?
Many times. I have not failed to scream and run the other way each time…
When did you start skateboarding?
I first picked up a longboard when I was 13 years old, but was an athlete in the sport of ice luge so my time was filled with training for that. My coaches also really disliked the fact that I even owned one. I really started to skateboard avidly about three years ago though.
What did your coaches fear skateboarding would do to you?
Injury from skating was definitely their fear, and they were correct with having that fear a couple times over my career. Got a decent concussion once apart from the usual road rash and never heard the end of that one!
Did you ever represent Canada in the Olympics?
I worked my way up to and competed on the Junior National Team for four years. We competed all over the world on the Junior World Cup circuit. I was at the point where we were to start competition in the next season for the 2014 Olympic team when I raced my first longboard race, and that’s when everything changed.
What is ice luge?
A sport where you hurl yourself down an ice covered concrete track on a sled, feet first with minimal visibility and speeds up to 150km/h. Precise, well tuned movements that keep you from catapulting off of your sled while racing for thousandths of a second.
When did you hang up your luge boots?
Danger Bay 2012 was my first longboard race. I told my coaches that I was going to it and they had no say in the matter, which you may guess they were not too pleased with. I had the most amazing trip ever and really truly fell in love with skating. When I came back, they sat me down and told me that I had a week to decide between sports. The choice that I then made was the best decision of my life.
Are there any parallels with racing skateboards?
The speed involved is the biggest cross over I would say. Theory of lines and just peak physical condition definitely helped me make the transition.
Why did you choose us?
On that first skate trip, I met so many amazing people and acquired so much freedom from both the lifestyle and my growth in skating from each run I took. I really just fell in love with the sport and everything that is involved with it.
Why did it take you 3 years to go to a race?
Before that, all I really knew how to do was tuck, bomb a straight hill, and footbreak to a stop at the bottom. My main focus was always on luge and skateboarding was just a side hobby. When I really started to put my focus into it, it only took about three months until I hit up Danger Bay.
Who taught you the skate ropes?
At the beginning, my older brother and I learnt together, via YouTube videos and trial and error. Eventually, we ended up meeting all of the Calgary shredders (Paul Kent, Aaron Christensen, Anna O’Neill and Riley Harris were some of the many) and they taught us so much!
Did you and your bro start skating at the same time?
Does he still ride?
He still has his board for commuting around campus and I’ll always pass down my gear, secretly hoping that he’ll get back into it!
What did you guys find in the Calgary community?
The Calgary community was and still is so rad. Just a great core group of people sharing the same love for the sport as well as just being super cool human beings.
Are they many nice runs there?
The river valley has so many neat paths as well as your usual city streets that you bomb down at low traffic hours. In the wintertime we have some cool parkades that we always sesh and the cherry on top is our mountain runs that are only an hour away.
Was Anna the first girl you got to skate with?
She sure was! And I still skate with her all the time to this day.
Are there many lady shredders in Calgary?
Anna, Victoria Waddington and I started skating together in Calgary and within no time we were able to push each other to become better skaters at an incredible rate. We still shred together and represent our home city!
Who is Victoria?
Victoria is one of the ‘BGS’ girls along with Anna and myself. She used to be a competitive figure skater and like me, got pulled in and jumped trains. She’s a super rad shredder who rides for Rayne.
What is BGS?
When Victoria, Anna and myself started shredding together and developed a sense of pride about where we had all started from and where we were then, we decided to call ourselves something. BGS is what came of it and you’ll often hear us shouting it from on the podium or to each other before a race run. The best is when others join in and spread the stoke, and if you want to know what it stands for you’ll just have to keep guessing!
Bacon Girl Shredders!
Wow, how did you guess?!… haha
Are you guys the equivalent of the LGC in Calgary?
I wouldn’t say the equivalent, no. But when we are all in Calgary, we hold girls sessions and try and get more and more chicks to come rip with us and just have an all around good time.
Did you and Victoria jump trains at the same time?
We did. Danger Bay was both of our first races and we never went back after that!
“There is definitely a different vibe in the air while skating with women… what I find really special about it is the happiness and stoke that is felt even on the start line of a heat. All smiles, laughter and good luck sent from one another. That’s a really cool feeling to share.”
Does skating with women feel different?
There is definitely a different vibe in the air while skating with women. It may be because women don’t seem to have as big of an ego as most men do haha (kind of joking on that part) but what I find really special about it is the happiness and stoke that is even felt on the start line of a heat. All smiles, laughter and good luck sent from one another. That’s a really cool feeling to share.
What did it take to get to the point where you could charge hard at DB?
Riding with those girls really got me to a level that I was ready for that race (mostly at least) and even furthur at the next race that was Britannia. I would take a solo run, hurl myself into the rights and ‘try’ to predrift. Resulting in many many highsides, but I came out of that weekend with so much more skill than I went into it with. With each run a little bit more in control, my addiction and desire to continually improve, skate faster and harder, was well on its way.
How did you do in your first race?
I was still learning how to make it down the track as our race heats went on, but somehow got it together enough to win the consolation finals of which I was extremely stoked about.
What did you enjoy most about the experience?
I loved how I could improve in such a visual way. In luge you would be pushing for the thousandths of a second that make or break you in a run that you didn’t know what you could possibly improve on. I also loved the stoke and happiness that everyone gave off even if you came tumbling through the corner on your face!
How did it feel different to ice luge comps?
The atmosphere of a longboard race is so much more positive and that made all of the difference for me of which I preferred.
What did you get up to after Danger Bay?
When I got home from the Danger Bay/Jake’s Rash/Britannia trip, I ‘retired’ from luge in the next week and was off to the next longboard race the following. From that point on I ended up hitting almost every Canadian race on the circuit. I couldn’t keep myself away.
Which was your favourite of the trip?
Definitely Britannia. At the time it was extremely challenging for me being most likely the fastest hill I had skated yet as well as pre drifts at those speeds. I loved the challenge though and was so determined to learn and make it down the hill.
Does 100km/h standing up feel different to luging?
Very different, in luge the corners and your steering come at you much much quicker. With longboarding there is such a wide range of factors that come into play, if it is cracks, speed wobbles or the riders around you. Just a different feel to both sports, but being higher off the ground definitely makes it feel faster.
What were you racing on that year?
My first year of racing I was riding a Sayshun epiphany, Paris trucks and B+ Plasma wheels.
What did you set out to achieve in 2012?
In 2012 my goals evolved with my riding. They started off being make it down the track, then dial my pre drifts, hold my own in women and then finally try and make it through a round or two of open.
Is the open class run similarly in luge?
No, in luge you are strictly in a class of your gender.
“I absolutely love racing open. It’s one of the things that I look forward to the most at a race, no expectations, I just have to give my all and try and beat some boys down the track!”
Do you relish the challenge of the open in DH skating?
I absolutely love racing open. It’s one of the things that I look forward to the most at a race, no expectations, I just have to give my all and try and beat some boys down the track!
How stiff was the competition in women’s class that year?
Pretty stiff for my skill level at the time that’s for sure! There are a bunch of really awesome shredders from all around the world.
What would it take for you to get an open podium?
This past season I’ve managed to get to quarter finals in Open at a few events. It’s my goal to keep raising that finish and I hope that in the next few years, if it’s myself or another woman, that podium will be reached.
Is it too much to dream of an all women’s final at a world cup race?
That would be unbelievably amazing. I really hope that the rate of the women’s progress keeps growing and that one day it would be possible! I do think that one day women will at least be at par with the men.
Is weight the only thing keeping men and women so far apart competitively?
I would say that weight and sheer muscle are the components that usually give men the advantage. However there are smaller dudes out there who kill it as well so it’s definitely possible to bridge that gap.
How did 2012 go for you?
2012 was amazing, I learnt and progressed way more than I ever felt imaginable, was able to hit the womens podium and even the top a few times. Met and had such amazing times with super rad people. Being based out of Calgary we quite often had a 7-10 hour car ride to the events so the road trip shenanigans were half the fun. Hitting random sketchy hills along the way and rad times spent partying hard at the group camp sites. Just such a good first season.
What were the hardest things to learn?
Dialing my pre-drifts as well as just getting used to riding close with other riders. I had never really done very much close riding before, always keeping a safe distance.
Do you have a party trick?
I’m pretty good at shotgunning a beer. Find me at the racer campsite and it’s a challenge!
What races did you attend?
Danger Bay, Jake’s rash, Britannia, Vernon, Kelowna, Whistler DH, Skate and Shoot, The Maryhill She-Ride, Giant’s Head, Sully, High Level, Rogue, Winsport Canada Cup and numerous outlaws.
What’s special about the BC circuit?
Well for starters, there’s a race almost every weekend during the summer months, and as I’ve come to find, that’s pretty unique compared to anywhere else around the world. The repeated events are run super well with racers coming back year after year.
What were your most fun heats that year?
Both my Women’s and Open heats at Skylands. Starting the day off with Open, and with a bit of luck I somehow magically made it to Quarter finals, far better than I had ever done before. I had such crazy fun runs with the guys, my first dip into what I now crave and love at every race. Next was our Women’s heats and in the Finals Marisa Nunez and I had an extremely rad tight heat which resulted in my first win. All around such a fun day.
What did it take to get that far?
That race I’m not gonna lie, a couple of crashes from the guys got me there as well as just giving my all, putting aside any fears and not holding anything back.
Was Winsport the only IGSA race you did in ‘12?
That and Vernon DH.
Did you have fun there?
At the time I was really really bad at riding rough and floaty pavement. As well as the speed bumps, I had a pretty tough time at Winsport.
Just not enough experience yet. I honestly couldn’t tell you what changed but by the time I hit the races the next year, I had no troubles at all.
When did you first get sponsored?
I started riding for Sayshun Longboards and Royal Board Shop about midway through my first season.
What is RBS?
Royal Board Shop is the local Calgarian skate shop that really supports the community. They have weekly free longboard clinics and provide great opportunities for Calgary riders to learn to ride safe.
Is it important to support your local shop?
Definitely. Local shops are what grow the sport and grow the global community.
What’s your role in the family?
I volunteer at the weekly skate clinics as well as take part in the rad events that the shop throws.
Is sponsorship important?
Sponsorship is important if there is a financial block in your path. If that’s not being able to get the wheels that you need to shred the gnar, or the financial support that you need to get you to the races that you destroy at. Skating only for the purpose of attaining a sponsorship is not where it’s at.
“I skate because I am thoroughly addicted. I skate for the freedom it brings me, the rush and the amazing friendships that come along with it.”
Why do you skate?
I skate because I am thoroughly addicted. I skate for the freedom it brings me, the rush and the amazing friendships that come along with it.
Have you had a fun 2013?
Fun is an understatement. I have had an unbelievable year. Riding continues to be more and more fun with each run that I take and I was fortunate enough to have had riding take me to some amazing places around the world this year.
Where did the fun start?
The fun started with the Maryhill spring freeride to shake off the winter icicles and then a banger California trip to follow. Skated the most amazing roads I have ever skated, raced on Catalina Island which was spectacular, and even slipped in a little trip to Disneyland.
First time skating outside Canada?
The Maryhill She-Ride in 2012 was.
Did you sign an autograph for Mickey Mouse?
Nope, but I got a sick picture with some storm troopers!
Where else did skateboarding take you this year?
After the trip to California, I hit up all of the usual Canadian races and had a blast. Seeing my progress from the year before at these tracks was amazing, being able to keep up with the guys more and more at each event and I had somehow managed to be hitting the top of the women’s podium at almost every race.
In-between events I’d work for Learn2Longboard and teach kids how to skate and just had a great time with them during the weeks of the summer camps. After Kelowna, Riley Harris and I headed over to Vancouver and jumped in the Landyachtz Eh Team van for a 26 or so hour drive down to Angie’s Curves in San Diego, California. Angie’s was dope to say the least, it really pushed my limits and was just an all around gnarly course. Even though it resulted in a little high speed pile up with myself and Marie Bougourd in the Women’s Finals, it was still such a great experience and I can’t wait to head back there next season!
Did you get to race outside NorAm?
As the North American race season began to come to a close I was chatting with the guys at Landyachtz and although I wasn’t in Europe at the time to race the World Cup events over. They decided that it was a good idea to send me to South America for the races down there. There was obviously no dispute from my side so before I knew it Riley and I were on a plane to South America! We hit up four races in Peru, Colombia and Brazil. Each place had new, exciting traditions, roads and rad locals to show us the ropes.
“..I realized that a huge part of what I skate for is not the praise or the compliments, but the look of equality and recognition in someone’s eyes when they realize that a female does have a place in this sport. ”
My favourite race was for sure The Festival de la Bajada in Bogota, Colombia. Such a sick road that is a one way downhill over a weird sketchy bridge, quickly alternating corners and a couple small precise drifts. In what seemed like a blink of the eye, we were at the last race at Mega Space in Brazil. During the freeride day, I think I can safely say that I had the most fun I have ever had on my skateboard. I was taking pack runs with my North American bros and was amazed when I was keeping up AND passing some of those top guys. The best part of it was just the smiles on everyones faces at the end of the run and the look of respect that I could see in their eyes. I realized that that is a huge part of what I skate for, not the praise or the compliments, but the look of equality and recognition in someone’s eyes when they realize that a female does have a place in this sport.
Unfortunately I got taken out on the practice run of race day by two guys, dislocated my shoulder and was unable to race. Regardless I came out of it with such rad memories, heaps of new acquired skill and the cherry on top was that I still had managed to accumulate enough points to be the 2013 Women’s World Champion. That was rad.
Congratulations! How did you celebrate?
At first I didn’t believe anyone when they starting coming up to me and congratulating me, even when Lee Cation himself told me. I didn’t want to get stoked and then be let down, so I waited until later that night when it was posted on the site to actually believe it. By then we were already having a good time at the after party so it just gave that much more of a reason to celebrate! When I got home and hit up the Landyachtz headquarters they had champagne waiting for me as well which was so friggin nice.
Must be nice to bring back the women’s cup to Canada!
Well there was no ‘cup’ per say, but feeling the stoke from everyone was pretty damn cool.
Do your luge buddies know you’re killing it standing up?
They do actually, it really puts a smile on my face when I feel the support from them. It means a lot to know that they respect what I’m doing.
Why don’t you race street luge at IDF races?
I’ve never actually tried street luge, but I’ve tried classic and don’t really like it! The way you steer and the way your board reacts is just completely different, so I actually find it pretty scary haha. I’m sure if I actually gave it some practice I could get a hang of it but for now I like to stick to stand up when I’m on pavement.
What do you do when you’re not skating?
In the winter time I love to hit the slopes and ski, if I need some time to chill out I draw, and I always enjoy getting into some good ol’ shenanigans with rad people.
What are you riding these days?
Landyachtz 2013 Tomahawk (chopped to fit my every need), Bear Precision Grizzlies and Hawgs wheels all the way!
Will you be on the same next season?
Definitely, give or take on models and what not. Wouldn’t want to ride anything else.
Justen says you’re working on a board for the ladies – true?
I sure am! Can’t give away too many details, but it’s gonna be a radical board for the ladies that can take you anywhere from cruising around town to bombing some gnarly hills.
Where would you like to be in 3 years?
Hopefully doing the exact same things that I am now! I definitely still want to be skateboarding and maybe I’ll be in the process of furthering my education. But who knows! I’m just stoked to be along for the ride and excited to see where life takes me!
Pick 3 numbers between 1-14.
1 If you had to be a bad guy in a movie, who would you be?
Hmm, probably Poison Ivy from Batman. She’s pretty badass.
2 – what weapons would you choose in a zombie apocalypse?
For sure unlimited ammo, surgically attached guns so I could never lose them or run out of bullets. By the time an apocalypse comes around they’re bound to have that shit happening!
14- What’s your ideal Christmas present?
A skatecation to somewhere new and exotic!
It’s been a lot of fun having this conversation with you. Thanks for your time, have fun in Australia and see you in Europe next year?
No worries, it’s been awesome! Definitely if all goes as planned, and I can’t wait. Thanks so much!
Any last words?
Just want to give a shout out to my radical sponsors, Landyachtz Longboards, Bear Trucks, Hawgs Wheels and Royal Board Shop! You guys are all fantastic and I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing without your help.