Billabong Team Rider Léa Brassy is a free surfer, who loves to discover new surf spots and cultures away from crowded beaches and competitions. At just 22, her passion for surfing has already taken her all over the globe - from her home breaks of France, to Portugal, Morocco, Spain, Ireland, Costa Rica, Panama, Barbados and Guadeloupe. We catch up with her between travels...
Lives: Biarritz, France
Sponsors: Billabong, Bolle, Cool shoes, Da Kine, Stark
Stance: Goofy foot
Have you always loved watersports? I generally love to be in or at the sea. I grew up in Normandy where lots of people surf. But I also like just going for a swim.
How did you get into surfing? My elder brother introduced me to surfing when I was younger. He took me surfing with him for the first time. We would load our boards onto an old wagon, then would cruise along in search of the best spots. I also used to go surfing on my own a lot in the beginning to practice, then later I started to surf with boys a lot more. I push myself further when I'm the only girl in the group, but I also learn a lot from watching the boys.
When did you decide to commit yourself to surfing full time? I started to take part in surf contests when I was still very young. I had good but not brilliant results. In 2000, at the age of 14, I competed in my first surf contest, the Bretagne Open, finishing second. Then in 2002, at 16, I claimed first place at the 'Finistere Open et Espoir' contest. In 2003, I secured 2nd and 3rd place at two local surf contests in Guadeloupe in the French West Indies. But in the long term I found that quite frustrating. I started to be discontent, then I realised that I love travelling much more than competing, and that I'd rather share my love for surfing with others than battling them, so I decided to become a freesurfer.
What’s your favourite surf spot? My absolute favourite wave is Pavones in Costa Rica. It's the perfect temperature and an incredible wave! But I’ve also surfed great waves in Ireland and of course there are some world-class spots right here along the French coast.
You left home pretty early. How did it affect your life? By the age of 14 I had already been on two surf trips to Portugal and Ireland. I was taking some pretty long surf trips and by the age of 16 I rented my first flat all on my own! That fact that I left home that early affected my whole life. I’m much more independent than others of my age, as I was completely on my own so had to learn how to do everything for myself. When I had a problem I had to find a solution myself. I had more freedom than most girls of my age but I was also totally responsible for myself.
You study nursing at the moment. How come? I finished my studies and found the perfect job for me: I work for a mobile nursing service. We’re a large team, so that means I can schedule my work myself and take some time off if there are big events like the Billabong Girls Days or when I have a lot of travelling coming up.
How does it feel to be a coach to young girls keen to learn surfing? This is my second time at the Billabong Girls Days. All of the girls are so motivated and really want to get in the water. They smile at you all day long, that gives me a very special kind of energy.
Can you give us a run-down of your average day? If I don’t have to work, the first thing I do is to check the surf report. Depending on that, I drive to the beach, and everything else is incidental!
How do you relax when you get the chance? I love to go swimming, but currently I relax best with some kind of embroidery. Sitting outside and embroidering is good to calm down and chill out. You only have to move minimally and you only concentrate on what you’re doing in that very moment.
Do you do your bit for the environment? I only use beauty products that are made of organic ingredients and were produced without animal testing. I also try not to use canned food and cook for myself from scratch instead. I try to behave like that in all areas of life, not only to help the environment but also because I think it’s really good for my own health.
What’s up next for you? I've been participating in Billabong Girl events, such as the Girl Camps in Europe. We also just started training with the Billabong Girls Junior Teams for the French Championships - it's my first year training the girls so it's very exciting. I don’t have any major travels planned this summer but I’d like to go to South America in the winter. Other than that, I'm sure there will be some more photo shoots for the Billabong Girl’s European range coming up and I'm planning on staying in Biarritz to pursue my nursing.
Any plans for the future? My dream is very simple: to set roots in a house by the ocean in a remote location and raise a family. I'd love to be able to walk barefoot on the sand each day, enjoy good surf and travel all over the globe.
Words: Anna Langer