How did you get into surfing?
I’ve been surfing for about 13 years, ever since my father threw me into the water when I was a little child! I was already watching him surfing so I was really keen to try it out too. But he didn’t put any pressure on me to be a surfer, I continued surfing because I love it, not just to emulate my dad.
Watch Lee Ann in action here!
What does surfing mean to you?
Surfing holds a really important place in my life; I can’t feel good if I’m not on my board. I think I would be depressed if I was far from the sea!
It must sometimes be difficult to be judged as the daughter of a 3-times World Champion…
Well, it’s true that people do often associate my career with his. But we have lived totally different stories and it would be stupid for me to try to do the same things that he’s already done because it’s impossible! So to be honest, I try not to think about that too much really!
Where did the nickname Sleepy come from?
It was during a trip in California with Alizé Arnaud… She gave me that name because I slept for about 20 hours a day on that trip! But since that day, I swear I sleep less!
Apart from sleeping, what do you do when you’re not surfing?
I often have so many things to do when I’m at home. I try to spend time with my family and friends as much as possible, otherwise I’ll be training whether in or out of the water.
You’re also learning guitar, aren’t you?
Yes indeed, but my new goal now is to learn piano!
You live in the south-west of France, are you neighbours with Pauline Ado?
Yes, Pauline is a good friend of mine. We’ve began surfing nearly at the same times and I love travelling or training with her. We push each other to the top, to our maximum, maybe because we’re quite competitive as well.
Who do you like to surf with?
It depends a lot. During trips, I am used to surfing with Pauline (Ado) and Alizée (Arnaud). But I see a lot of people in the water so I cannot mention everybody! I often go surfing alone and meet my friends over there.
What do you think of the surfing level of the French girls?
I think we have the potential to compete with the others but we have to work a lot because the level is so high in all the other countries.
Do you still get nervous before competitions?
Yes, a lot because I really want to succeed! But I try to keep cool because being stressed doesn’t help much during competitions!
What do you take when you travel?
I’m never too far from my boards! And my passport of course!
Who are your biggest inspirations?
People who always try their best! I think that Rell Sunn is one my biggest inspirations.
Can you give us a run-down of your average day?
I don’t have a typical day actually! I have the impression that every day is a completely different day. I usually wake up at around 6am and go surfing early to avoid the crowd, then have a great breakfast and do something else until 2pm (driving lessons, play music, look after my brother, see my friends, stretching, etc…). At 2pm, I go back into the surf then I go home to eat, and if waves are good enough in the evening, I’ll go back in the water for another surf! After that, I’ll have run out of energy so I’ll go to bed!
If you were offered a ‘dream surf session’, what would it be?
It would be with 5 or 6 of my friends, waves just big enough so that it is a challenge, but not dangerous with tubes, just on the seaside, some right, and some left ones.
What are your secrets for success?
I think it is definitely will power. Anybody can make good results if they are motivated. I don’t need to be forced to go training early in the morning.
What lessons have you learned through surfing?
So many lessons! Most surfers who inspire me are humble and respect others in the water and in life. Oh yes, and lesson number one: surfing doesn’t wait!
How has your life changed since being on the WQS circuit?
I’ve lived through a lot of quite brutal changes in my life. I go around with different people now, I travel more often, and above all, I am able to devote all of my time to surfing! I am really passionate about what I am doing and I spend a lot of my time in the water but I try to spend time with my friends as well.
Would you like a career in the world of surfing?
Yes. What is important right now is that I take advantage of these years on the tour to learn a lot about the surfing world, I’m especially grateful to Roxy that they have given me this opportunity.
What’s your favourite surfing memory?
I have so many good ones! But the last one is when I taught my brother how to surf in Marinella. He is 8 and he was enjoying it so much that it made me so happy for him.
What’s your favorite spot?
I love beach breaks of the Landes in the south-west of France. If I had to choose only one place on earth for surfing, it would be at home, in the Basque Country!
Where was your last trip?
I went to Indonesia with Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Megan Abubo, Kassia Meador and a bunch of other girl riders. That was a great trip, I have learnt a lot surfing with those girls.
You’ve already travelled a lot this year. Where are you planning on spending the rest of the year?
This summer, I’ll be taking part in competitions in Huntington, Portugal and the Pro Junior events in Europe. Then I’ll be training in September-October before leaving for Hawaii in November, where there is a WQS event in Haleiwa. I’ll try to spend most of my time over there this year.
Do you have any advice for budding surfers?
Believe in yourself and keep training every day because your efforts will be rewarded in the end!
What’s your philosophy on life?
Don’t worry, be happy!
Photos: Lorene Carpentier
Words: Elisa Routa