helena long 2

The UK skater and illustrator on loving the buzz of a comp, the trouble with trying to earn a skate living and why we should head to Helsinki for gin and grapefruit on tap

Interview by Sam Haddad

Hey Helena, what have you been up to then lately?

Welllllll the first term of my second year at university has been my priority - well should be! But I've been hopping about the UK for a few competitions here and there including the 'Phoenix Night' comp at Manchester for the first leg of the UK Ladies Series, UKSA mini ramp and street champs as well as the final stop for the LSUK in Aberdeen! On top of that I've recently joined a band called Edit/Select who were in need of a new drummer! Been popping back to London here and there for practices and gigs. Overall I've been a very busy but excited gal!

We have a Romania story coming up in the magazine [issue 35, on sale Jan 26] featuring you and Lois Pendlebury. Did you have a good trip and what do you like most about hanging with Lois?

Definitely one of the best trips I've ever been on! Despite there being few skateparks and spots, I really enjoyed a skating prowl around Bucharest, meeting the locals and staying with Lois' Aunt and Uncle who were such amazing hosts and incredibly generous with their hospitality. Oh and hanging out with Lois - you couldn't get any better. She knows what she likes and is really level headed. One of the best people to travel with as she's a right laugh (doing hand stands and cartwheels in Luton Airport for example), pretty darn organised, gnarly skater and good drinker on a night out!

She told us to ask you about a trip to Finland involving gin and grapefruit and er Deptford Market too…

Oh man Gin on tap! Lois and myself are quite keen on our gin - unless Lois is drinking cider. The nights before our last venture on the town in Helsinki, we were in search of gin at the bars but they didn't know what we were after until the last night when we discovered Gin with fizzy grapefruit on tap! Which we took great advantage of. Deptford market on the other hand is probably my favourite market. It's just a giant bric a brac with a great mix of cultures where you can nab some quite eccentric bargains. Basically I took Lois and fellow French skater chick Cecilia there and we then went for a coffee at the Deptford Project which has an old train carriage converted into a cafe with an Elvis themed toilet in a shed.

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How has the Ladies Skateboard Series been for you this year? Did you feel some pressure having won the overall title last year?

It was great fun this year what with the nail painting and cup cakes! The standard of skating had definitely improved too which was exciting to see. If anything I didn't feel any pressure as I knew I could win it again if it all goes well but if not I'd have last year's title under my belt. But to be honest I never really go into a competition wanting to gain a title - don't get me wrong it's awesome if I do - but I just enter to skate amongst other girls and land tricks under pressure as it's quite an adrenaline boost!

What impact do you think these kind of events have on the UK girls skate scene?

I think they, or at least I hope they encourage more and more girls to discover skateboarding. To show that yeah you might fall over but most of the time you'll get back up again.

Is it possible to make a living as a pro female skater in the UK? And if not what needs to happen for it to be possible?

I've talked with guy and girl skaters about this one and even for male pro skaters in the UK the opportunity to earn a living from skateboarding is pretty rare, let alone for female skateboarders! If it were to ever happen for the female pro skaters I think the girls' skate scene in the UK would have to increase to make it more widely recognised. If that were to happen it would probably increase the competition and funding.

Who are your skate heroes?

Sounds pretty cheesy but I'd probably have to say my skater friends oh and Louie Barletta as he seems to have so much fun with skating and he has a really inventive style.

And what about outside of skateboarding?

I'd have to be cheddar on this one too and say non skating friends and family.

What was your first skateboard like?

Well before I even started skating properly, I had a luminous green skateboard with pink plastic rails, break pad, trucks and wheels and it had only one tail with no grip tape in the middle. But the first one I started to actually skate on (not on my hands and knees!) was a 'do it yourself' put it together kind of board where I spent at least a good 30mins putting it together only to realise I'd put on both trucks pointing in the same direction.

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Have you had any run-ins with the police lately? Do they hate skaters more or less than they did say 5/10 years ago?
Not for a while actually! I haven't had the chance to skate as much street recently as I've been pretty busy with other commitments and skate comps, so to go for a quick skate sesh it's always easier to pop down to the local park. Although if I have ever skated a little street over the past couple of months I've only ever been told to 'move on' but no bother other than that!
What are your plans for next year? Any particular tricks you'll be trying to lay down?

No plans as of yet although there is a tour I might be joining with some of the German gal skaters next summer around New York and Montreal! Just need to start saving for those flights! As for tricks to learn, some new flat bar and rail manoeuvres would be nice!

Any other issues in skateboarding that you'd like to raise?

Shred till you're dead!

Big thanks to Powley and Vans, Les Ettes, Rogue Skateboards, Sam at Drugstore, band mates, friends - especially Lois, Colin, Lynn, Helen and Matt for putting up with me in Romania, The Helsinki Hook Up gang and my family including my cat Molly.

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