Interview by John Bryja
photo by Toby Bromwich
One man that needs no introduction in kiteboarding is Andre Phillip. He is a multiple Triple-S champion and one of the wakestyle pioneers. Dre is really just short form for kite steeze.
Kitesurfing Magazine: You were never really big into the world tour scene. What do you think will make the new world tour more relevant to American riders?
Andre Phillip: I always saw kiteboarding as an outlet to express one’s self. So the idea of training all year then going on tour to kite in crappy conditions and have someone judge you never appealed to me. However the world tour is a good outlet to get recognized and get support because no one can deny good competition results. The contest scene is great for keeping your riding sharp. The world tour has its place and don’t get me wrong, winning feels great and competition can bring out the best in some people. But I’ve always been pushed the most by my peers or people who get creative and stylish, so the tour wasn’t top of my list.
I think if you want to see riders stoked on the tour it comes down to a good format, judging, riding location, media coverage and prize money. But at the end of the day, even if the tour was more relevant, most American riders are gonna have to work a lot harder to get a podium. There are less than a handful of American riders who are good enough to be competitive on tour and a few young riders who have potential. But I think the standards are higher in other countries. Look at Brazil and Dominican Republic for instance. The kids coming up in those places have no money and crappy gear, but the drive and dedication is so powerful.
Kitesurfing Magazine: You were a big part of the Triple-S from the beginning. What do you think of the new invitation format based on previous results? Who has never been to a Triple-S that you would really like to see?
Andre Phillip: Its been fun being a part of the Triple-S since the beginning. It evolved from a small, backyard style event that was more freeride oriented to a much bigger organized event. All the wild house parties, great live music, the random sessions where someone would be absolutely on fire, or when a rookie would come through and shine.
I think the new invitation format is a good change. It rewards those who have done well the year before and secures a spot for them in the next year’s event. It was always prestigious to be invited but this way there’s no hard feelings if you don’t get invited.
Hmmm. I can’t seem to name anyone who hasn’t been to the event that I’d like to see. Noe Font was there last year and I have a good feeling this kid will be one to keep eyes on. Hopefully he’s been pushing his limits.
Kitesurfing Magazine: A few years ago as a rider, you were somewhat critical of pro riders’ relationships with the industry compared to other action sports. How have your views changed now that you are involved with your own brand?
Andre Phillip: As a pro kiteboarder you travel the world and get very connected to every aspect of our industry (fellow kiteboarders, shops, media outlets, photographers, kiteboard schools, kiteboard brands etc). I’ve learned so much over the years about pro riders and brand relationships and about the industry of kiteboarding. I’m still learning now that I am one of the owners at Tona. But I’ve always had a soft spot for the pro riders because I think we’ve had it the hardest and we seem to be the most disposable. I would love to see riders get more support, especially from kite brands.
Pro riders put it all on the line, many times sacrificing relationships with people at home or with a spouse. Unless you are at the top of the charts you won’t be able to afford to save any money for the future. And if you break your body while trying your hardest on the water then you may be kissing all the dreams goodbye, not to mention what happens when you start getting too old to perform. These are realities for a pro kiteboarder and in other action sports at least the pro riders get enough support to invest in a future. I understand the challenges of running a successful business and I understand other action sports are bigger. But I think we as brands need to find ways to support the pro riders so that they can have a brighter future. We owe it to them for investing so much of themselves.
Kitesurfing Magazine: You were always a visionary in the early days. You were one of the first riders doing wake style, and a pioneer in the surf. What do you see in kiteboarding’s future that excites you?
Andre Phillip: I saw the kite as a way to be pulled along. Having loved all boardsports it only made sense to get on my surfboard if the surf was good or jump on my skate or my regular kiteboard. I was just doing what felt right for the conditions.
Everything about the future of kiteboarding excites me to tell you the truth. There are so many disciplines and I think that’s the beauty of kiteboarding: it’s so versatile. The kite is just a tool to pull you along. It doesn’t matter what you ride and what terrain you’re on, once people are having fun we will see each discipline develop. I guess what excites me the most are the youth. They are the ones that will take it to the next level.
Kitesurfing Magazine: Where do you think kiteboarding can still borrow from other action sports?
Andre Phillip: We don’t need to borrow anything else. When the kite industry started the other board sports like snowboarding, wakeboarding and skateboarding had already been around for awhile and gone through their growing pains. So kiteboarding had the advantage of studying those sports’ histories to see what worked well. Kiteboarding still went through its growing pains too. I mean there were some things we could have done without, like kite pants and board handles to name a couple. Kites used to be unbelievably dangerous in the early days. You had to be a stunt man to learn. Regardless kiteboarding turned out all right. We have some great brands, media outlets, schools and ambassadors representing this sport and there are lots of amazing things happening behind the scenes which make the industry better.
We just need to focus on doing it for the love, not for the money. The sport is so fun and if we create great equipment that’s safe and do everything for the love, we will inspire great things.