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Getting to Know Dre: The Andre Phillip Interview

Jun 18, 2008

Author: Tracy Kraft and John Bryja Photos by Tracy Kraft

When SBC Kiteboard decided to do a series of articles with the sport’s most stylish riders, the first name that came to mind was Andre Phillip. The term steez, style with ease, personifies Dre like no other rider in kiteboarding.

Raised: Antigua
Current residence: Antigua, Maui, Dominican Republic, hotels and airports
Years riding: 7
Sponsors: Cabrinha, Kaenon, NPX, kitescoop.com
Years with Cabrinha: 4
Quiver: In the surf, I’m on Rawson surfboards anywhere from a 5’11” to a 6’3”. And if I’m throwing tricks or hitting rails, I’m on my Cabrinha Custom 138 with Hyperlite 3DS bindings.
Travel bag rundown: I normally travel with two board bags. One bag will have a couple Rawsons, size depending on where I’m going, and I’ll normally throw in all my fins, leashes, wetsuit tops and anything else I need to surf. The other bag will have two Custom 138s, Hyperlite bindings, two bars, Switchblade kites from 6 to 12 m2, harness, tool bag.
Places visited in 2007: I started off in Antigua, then went to Barbados, Bahamas, Guadeloupe, Antigua, Hawaii, Dominican Republic, Cape Hatteras, Peru, Maui and Australia.
Favourite place: A few places that I’ve been to that I would always return are Australia, Hawaii, Dominican Republic and French Polynesia.

A lot of snowboarders have style, some pro wakeboarders do too, but not many kiteboarders. Why do you think that is?
Everyone has their own style. Whether it looks good or not is a different question. Snowboarding and wakeboarding went through its times when style didn’t really matter that much and the latest manoeuvre did. These days most of the pros are all doing the same stuff, so the only thing that sets them apart is good style. For some, it’s natural. And for others, they have to spend forever trying to borrow style. I think half the reason why there aren’t many stylish kiteboarders is because the latest handlepass is the craze, and it makes people’s style worse because they’re trying to learn something that is outside their learning curve. They want to learn a Mobe when they can’t even make a Back Roll to Revert look good. The other half of the reason is that people don’t really get rewarded for style. You go to contests, and basically the most technical trick takes the win over less technical plus style. Open most magazines these days—they’re full of a lot of kooky stuff. People can get a full-page spread doing some gay-lookin’ trick. In the end, good style will prevail, but it will just take time to happen. Props to Cam Barker, Dylan Thompson, Jake Kelsick—although you’re too lazy!—and Denver Coon for throwin’ it down with style. A lot of people would ask who those guys are, and it’s a typical example of how style doesn’t count for enough in our sport—yet.

In the past three or four years you quit doing the comps. Why?

I used to compete a lot because it was my only outlet to getting a chance to get recognized and then sponsored. I come from a small island that only has a few kiteboarders, and the chances of any of us “making it” are next to none. So my friend, Alex Portman, helped me get out of Antigua and do some contests, and from there I became recognized and I got picked up by Cabrinha. I’ve never been the kind of person that enjoyed riding in heats and being judged for the way that I ride, nor did I like being forced to ride a certain way so that I could do well in contests. I did it for a few years so that I could build a reputation, then do my own thing. I do think contests are good for the sport, but it’s just something that I never enjoyed doing. I did like how we would always see the same people on the tour, and it was cool to hang out and party with everyone.

The Australian Kiteboarder did a sequence issue a few years back, and you were 90 per cent of it. Dimi was shooting most of it during the PKRA contest in Cabarete, but not at the actual event. Is that when you decided to bail on contests and do more shooting?
[laughs] I’d have to agree with you about that issue. Props to the original KBM. They are down for the cause and are trying to push the sport in the right direction. Around that time I was a bit over-riding the way that judges wanted everyone on the tour to ride and wanted to do my own thing, so that’s kinda what I was doing.

If you did do a comp, what would be the ideal setup?
I’ve been doing one annual contest for the past two years, and it’s the Triple-S held by Real in Cape Hatteras [North Carolina]. The reason why I do it is because there are no heats and no stress at this contest. Everyone rides as much or as little as you want, and at the end of it, the riders all judge each other. It’s not like a regular contest, where each rider has eight minutes to strut their stuff, and if they don’t make it, they have to pack their bags and leave. Another thing that is cool is that they don’t restrict the contest area to one spot. We wake up and let the conditions dictate where we will ride for the day.

Looking back at old issues of SBC Kiteboard, the photos that stand the test of time all have steez. You were doing stuff big and unhooked but, more important, smoothly when the majority of pro riders weren’t. Was it frustrating being part of the crew that paved the way, or was it gratifying?
A little of both. Sometimes I’m frustrated that there is so much gayness in our sport. Just yesterday I was reading Surfing Life [an Australian magazine], and there was a post that read: “Kitesurfers are the Rollerbladers of the ocean.” It’s sad, but at the moment that is the biggest image that we are portraying. Sometimes I feel like maybe what I’m doing will help the sport get recognized by our big-brother boardsports, and hopefully others will help with the same cause, and that is gratifying. It seems like I’m part of a bigger movement that is on kitescoop.com, and they are eventually gonna take the sport where it should go.

How do you keep motivated?
Riding with friends motivates me the most these days, or goin’ out in good conditions. I try to stay away from frustrating conditions.

We’ve been seeing a lot of press of you on sliders, kickers and rails. What got you into missioning rails?
Ever since I was young I always used to build ramps. It started when I rode bicycles and crossed over when I started to kiteboard. I don’t know. I just have fun hitting obstacles, and they are scarce, so I just build my own.

Any bad wipeouts yet?
My worst wipeout was the one in AutoFocus. Someone had a brilliant idea to put a rail across this sandspit. I think it was my idea, so no one else would hit it until I tested it out. So I pumped up and got a few hits in, and it felt pretty good. The problem was, at the base of the rail was right where two currents met, so the water was washing up and down. On one of my approaches I was coming in full-speed to ollie onto the rail, and the water went down. I ollied and came up short, and my board clipped the beginning of the rail. I slammed into it with my chest, then tackled one of the poles with my shoulder. My shoulder got pretty messed up. I still can’t sleep on it two years later.

You built some new rails in the past few months in Antigua, pretty much on your own. How did you learn to build them?


I’ve been building stuff for a long time now, and it’s basically just trial and error. I think of something, build it, hit it and see how it works. After I’m finished building something, I think of a way I can improve it, so the next one evolves to being better than the last. I’ve always used wood, and the problem is that you need a lot of wood to build a solid slider, but then it gets really heavy, so I thought it would be better if we could use metal. That way, we could use less material to get the same strength and, in turn, make it lighter. This year my brother taught me to weld, and I built a few rails out of galvanized steel. I think these ones are the best ones so far, but I’m never satisfied. I got a few ideas to make them a bit better.

Where do you get your ideas for what you want to build?
Ideas come from all over, really. Some stuff just pops into my head or from snowboard, wakeboard videos or friends.

What gave you the idea to weld this time?
I went over to my brother’s, and he had welded a gate for his home, and that sparked the idea for me to build using metal.

How did you learn to weld? Any accidents or mishaps?
One morning my bro came over with his tools and arc welder and gave me the rundown. It’s pretty easy once you can see what to do and get the feel of it. I got a few minor burns, but nothing serious.

What did you build?

I built a 60-foot A-frame, a 40-foot step-up box and a 20-foot handrail.

How many hours went into this?
I don’t know how many hours. A lot! A lot of sweating from that heat and a lot of bending over made some days with a sore back.

What or who would you say has influenced your riding and your style the most?
Some of my riding resembles my personality. Kind of lazy and laid-back. [laughs] I draw a lot of influence from the people I normally ride with, like the AutoFocus crew and Inept crew, da boyz from Antigua and the Oz crew.

Is pro wakeboarder Shaun Murray still a big influence?
Murray, [Scott] Byerly, [Shawn] Watson [and] Shane Bonifay are all influences from wakeboarding. I also feed off of riders from the other boardsports like snow, skate and surf. We are all related in some way.

Can you name a few videos where we can check out your riding?

AutoFocus, Metropolis, Ten4, Next and look for our new Cabrinha team video.

You’ve had a stable sponsorship with Cabrinha, while some of the sport’s other big names have moved around a bit more. What do you owe the strength of that relationship to?
There are a lot of good members behind the scenes at Cabrinha that make it a solid company, and the product speaks for itself. Cabrinha gives me a lot of slack to let me do what I like, and they get the best out of me that way. Can’t really complain much. Maybe one day I’ll be cool enough for Pete [Cabrinha] to give me a pro model. [laughs]

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
The highlight of my career so far is being able to travel the world and scope out and ride all the cool spots that it has to offer. Also making some solid friends along the way.

Any advice for groms looking to go pro?

Ride a lot and keep stuffing your bag full of tricks, but also make sure your style isn’t wack.

What three riders have the most steez today?
Dylan Thompson (Inept crew), Cam Barker (Aussie movement) and Jake Kelsick (the Antiguan connoisseur).


Traveling

Best place for...


Waves: West Australia

Gals: East Australia

Rails:
Real in Hatteras

Just chillin’: Antigua

Parties: Cabarete and Australia

Flatwater: Hatteras


Life in Antigua

What was it like growing up an island boy in Antigua?
It’s pretty relaxed growing up in Antigua. Things move at island time, and it’s small. So everyone kinda knows everyone. We get summer all year round. I guess it’s an OK place to grow up.

How did you get into kiting?
My friend Eli traded some windsurf gear for kiteboarding gear, and he was the first person to bring kitesurfing to Antigua. I begged him to teach me, and the rest is history.

What other sports and activities did you do growing up there?
I used to ride everywhere on my BMX. We had a whole crew, and we used to just ride around and jump anything that had a bump to it. Somewhere in my early teens I got introduced to watersports, and then I was pretty much hooked on being in the water all the time—surfing, windsurfing and wakeboarding.

Was there a big kiting scene in Antigua then?
The kiteboarding scene has always been pretty small.

And now how’s the scene?
It’s still pretty small, maybe 15 kiteboarders who live on the island. It’s kinda cool like that, ’cause we have a good little crew and it’s not crowded anywhere. [laughs]

Where’s a good spot to ride?
Jabberwock is the most consistent spot. Half Moon Bay, Willoughby Bay and Green Island are fun as well.

You guys have good flatwater. Any waves?
Everywhere is flatwater. Willoughby Bay has a bit of waves but small.

The kite school there just got a new Grinch winch. You checked it out yet?

Yeah, The Grinch is a winch that has a long rope with a handle attached to it, and it can pull a wakeboarder. It’s portable, so we can set it up anywhere. I haven’t been home to try it yet, but the boys say it’s fun when there’s no wind.


Quick Answers

Five things you couldn’t travel without? iPod, slippers, credit card, Kaenon sunglasses and my Mac.

Top 5 on iPod? Jay-Z, Nas, Gentleman, The Roots, Bob Marley.

Last two movies you watched? Borat and Super Troopers.

Other sports of interest?
Wakeboarding, snowboarding, surfing.

Favourite place to grind in Antigua?
Trappas.

Drink of choice? Rum and ginger.

No wind—what do you do in Antigua? Probably just go hang out at the beach or go boating.

Where to party? Rush, English Harbour, Abracadabra and Shirley Heights on a Sunday.

Local music? Reggae, calypso.

Anyone you wanna give props to? Eli for teaching me to kite. Alex Portman giving me a chance to get out and be seen. The Antigua crew: Stevie, Adam, Nigel, Nickolai, Jake, Russel, Annabel. Big props for holdin’ the scene while I’m not home.

One word all of your friends in Antigua would use to describe you?
I dunno… maybe mellow.

 



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