A Proper Hump Day with Sara PhillipsBy Brooke Geery • Jan 6th, 2010 • Category: Features, Hump Day Interviews, Latest
5-0. Photo Neil Dacosta
Sara Phillips picked up her first sponsor in the US with a beer in hand and her mouth gushing blood. It wasn’t a publicity stunt, rather just what she happened to be doing at that fateful moment the Nitro TM ran into her. When you live the “snowboard lifestyle,” that’s just how things happen. After filming for various movies over the past few seasons, she finds herself living in Portland, working at Holden and not riding nearly as much as she’d like. But underneath the cute British accent, Sara is the definition of a real snowboarder: someone whose entire life path has been dictated by chasing the snow. In the process, she’s managed to log some decent shots and live some decent stories, so what better way to get it all out there than Hump Day.
Where are you from originally?
The west coast of England. A really small village, like the Port Office is in someone’s house and there used to be a bakery there and there are two pubs, and that’s it.
How did you get into snowboarding being from there?
You know those dry slope things that they have in England? I was at school at like 15 or 16 and one of my friends started to go. I went up there a couple times and it was real fun, so I started going up more. I would hitchhike because it was like 15 miles away. I didn’t have a driver’s license because I think you need to be 17 to have your driver’s license in England, but an old friend would let me drive his car there when I was like 16. I was going like 3 or 4 nights a week. All the guys at the dry slope, they were probably like 19, so I would go there and then they went to Italy, so I went to Italy. I went for like two weeks, it was the first time I’d ever seen that much snow and I got hooked on it and I started playing around with the idea of doing a season.
It’s different in England, every one does “a season.” You like work all summer to try and get money to go. In the states it’s not that big of a deal to move, whereas at home you really work to go. I saved up money. I was gonna go to school in Falmouth, which is on the coast in this surf town, I had a design degree all lined up, so I was gonna do that, but then I was like, I don’t know about this, I’m gonna go snowboarding. One of my guy friend’s sister was doing a season. I’d never met her before, but I called her and was like, I heard you are going to Austria for 6 months. She told me which flight she was booked on, so I just booked a ticket. I’d never met her so I was like I’ll meet you at the airport and she was like, I’ll wear a black jacket. I just showed up at the airport with all my stuff and caught a flight with her, and then took two trains. We showed up at like 11 at night. It’s like pitch black, down in this valley. We didn’t even know if we were in the right place and in Austria they have this thing, I think it’s called Devil’s night. If the kids are good they dress up and go around the town and like beat other kids with sticks. It’s a really weird tradition thing. That was the night we showed up and it’s dark and all the kids are running out and hitting you with sticks. But it turned out we were in the right place and I stayed there for the next 6 months. I stayed there for three winters and that’s how I ended up at summer camp SBC, like the good one, not like American ones. It rules, it was the best time of my life.
Cold hands. Photo: Andy Wright
What do you have against American snowboard camps?
I don’t know it’s all just marshmallows and happiness, not beer and strippers. It’s a different scene. Kids would come and there was no supervision. You could camp and pay whatever it was to ride the park, or you could pay to stay in a hotel and get free food. Everyone was there, every team, every pro rider because they made the best park. The parties would be like 15-year-old kids that caught the train from Germany and the owner of the camp would like hire a stripper.15-year-old kids seeing a stripper for the first time was incredible, and it was like that every night. You would go to the mountain at like 7 in the morning and go snowboarding, then go to the river, and then do it all again. It was like 3 months of that every single day. It ruled. And then the camp got banned from the town.
How did you end up in the States?
Everyone was always like, Mammoth is the best place ever, especially if you are living in Europe and the parks aren’t as good, everyone always talks up the States a lot. I had a friend that was living in Mammoth and she’d rented a house and had space on the floor. I just went out there. I actually didn’t know if I could come in because I’d been arrested in England, but I got a visa for 90 days the first time. Then I came back for 6 months and then I got an athlete visa and I just came back.
How do your parents feel about you gallivanting around the globe with such reckless abandon?
I think they would support whatever decision I had. I ultimately did do one year of my degree, but I turned down one of the best courses in England. I was just so drawn to snowboarding. I think my parents are happy. I used to travel around the world and call them from all different places and they thought it was so cool that their daughter was so independent at a young age. I think they just wanted me to be happy and if I was, then they would support any decision. They’ve never seen me snowboarding; like if they talk about halfpipe they’ll talk about “the tube” they’ll talk about it in the bystander lingo. If I send them photos of me snowboarding they’ll be like “You’re not wearing a helmet!” or “You could fall on the cement!”
No regard for safety. Photo: Neil Dacosta
So was your goal to go pro at snowboarding?
I just wanted to snowboard. For me it changed by life so much. When I was younger I was always into sports, I used to play hockey and I swam. Whatever I got into I really got into and I just wanted to be good at it. I just wanted to travel and it seemed like a really good way to do that. I wasn’t like a formulated decision. It was just the people I gravitated to were doing it. It was cool to get hooked up and get free stuff cause it made it easier to keep doing it, but I just wanted to keep living the lifestyle. Traveling and getting better at what I loved doing. Be involved and give back to it.
Are you still on that track, or have you given up on “living the life?”
I don’t know. It’s hard now. I still love going snowboarding, but I think I got a lot of the buzz from filming and being involved in that stuff and it was the way that I pushed myself. I love the filming and photo element because it felt like you were putting out. There was such a good sense of unity. I really enjoyed that kind of collaboration and I really enjoyed putting myself in a position where I was scared and I really enjoyed seeing the image result and to work with that person, It was like a creative thing as much as it was a physical thing and now I don’t get to do that as much. I can go and film with Peep Show or other crews that go out, but it’s just harder because I don’t have the time. I really miss that. I love going out at 3 am and digging to help my friend get a shot.
Poaching Park City circa 2007. Photo Espen Lystad
Why don’t you have time now?
I’m working. I have a job, at Holden. At a snowboard company.
What do you do at Holden?
Well, I didn’t even plan on getting a job. I went in there one summer, after Windells, just to help Scott pick the colors for a women’s jacket for last year’s collection. He liked to work with me and I enjoyed it. I started working there as kind of a production assistant. Now I am still doing that, but I help Mikey with marketing. I design the hats. I’m involved with artist collaborations for T-shirts and I have input in the outerwear and styling. A jack of all trades I suppose.
Occasionally. I am a fit model, it’s hardly like a commercial paid modeling position. It’s just because no one else fits in the clothes and I’m there!
Modeling. Photo Neil Dacosta
Do you have any advice for someone who would want to get a job like yours in “the industry”?
I get a lot of emails from people asking at the main Holden email address. I reply to them that it depends on what avenue you want to get into. If you want to get into the design the best route would be to have a keen interest in snowboarding and fashion. I think for us we’re more concerned about what’s going on in fashion. I don’t give a shit what’s going on in the snowboarding world; it’s fairly bland so I’m not interested. I read all the fashion magazines, watch runway shows, read the foreign Vogues. I think for design you have to have a good awareness of fashion, and then if you’re snowboarding anyway you have a good understanding of how a garment should perform technically and what you want out of it. If you want to get into other aspects of it, I think any job within this industry it’s about knowing someone that is going to get you into it. It’s kind of a lame reality, but that’s the way a lot of people progress — by not necessarily their capabilities but by who they know. But I think if you’re generally good at what you do you’re going to get the recognition, you just have to do it long enough and really show that you’re better than the next person.
What’s working at Holden really like? Anything people wouldn’t really expect?
There’s only 7 people that work there so every one does everything. Even Mikey is like, packing team boxes. It’s interesting to be involved in everything. Nate sleeps on the couch when he drinks too much, but you probably knew that already.
I think everyone knew that!
I think Holden is pretty open so I think most people get a pretty good understanding of what it’s really like. I don’t really think it’s any different than how it’s perceived. Maybe people think it’s a bit bigger but that’s about it.
Not as cold hands. Photo: Kevin Westenbarger
So how do you like living in Portland?
Honestly? I fucking hate this place. It rains all the time. If I wanted to live somewhere it rained I would live in England. It’s like an hour and 45 minutes away from the mountain. Everyone’s like, it’s so close! It’s not close when you lived in Mammoth where it’s 5 minutes, or if you lived in Austria where the gondola went out of your back door. And I’m over emo shitty and bars and I’m fed up with the lack of culture here. I lived in London and I really miss that energy. I want 24-hour life. I want to see people in interesting clothes, not Ugg boots. I feel like you can get by being shitty at stuff in Portland.
So why stay here?
I enjoy my job. Summers here are good. I go to the river like every day after work and just hang out; I like that. But people are like, “ I hibernate in the winter,” but you’re not a fucking bear. I just don’t like that I don’t see anyone for six months.
So who’s the worst roommate you’ve ever had?
Oh come on…
You can say Forgash, it’s ok.
No, you’re just leading the question. I love Forgash, he actually married me and Neil on Scotty (Wittlake’s) porch. It was funny. He had on this old metal jacket, cause he was metal Forgash then, and he had a name tag that said “Hi My Name Is” and it was like, Minister Forgash. He’d been ordained online. He had his guitar, and I walked out of Scotty’s kitchen and he was playing Here Comes the Bride super twangy. Neil was already standing out there. I didn’t even have any clothes, I borrowed a dress from my friend and shoes from my friend. Scotty’s porch has all these holes in it and I was teetering, trying to go down the stairs. All our friends were there, except Scotty cause he was doing that Bikecar thing and couldn’t get back in time.
Kinky. Photo Neil Dacosta
So did you marry Neil (Dacosta) for citizenship?
Am I really that shallow? Dude, that’s such a shitty question to ask. I would never marry someone if I didn’t love them. I don’t even have citizenship, why would I give up being British?
Why, cause you hate America?
No I just don’t want to. The only difference between having a green card and being a citizen is that you can vote, that’s it. I vote in England, I have a proxy vote. I don’t want to hold dual citizenship. I’m not going to agree to bear arms for this country, that’s for sure.
Ok back to snowboarding. Token female snowboard interview question: how to you feel about the state of women’s snowboarding?
I think there are some people that are really good and that are really pushing snowboarding and seem to really care about it for the right reasons. People that are generally good and have good style and are not just good for being a girl. But for me it’s about my friends doing it. I think snowboarding in general just got really weird. It’s so severe in different directions. Either you have a helicopter and you close a resort just to film a jump that you should be hitting in the backcountry, or it’s all just fuck around rails and it looks like you should be skateboarding.
I think when snowboarding started, people were just doing it and expressing how they felt about it, and now I think people just strive to be creative, and I think it’s contrived. For me if I go snowboarding, I’m so non-distinct and that’s always how I’ve been. But now it’s so image driven I think people get by being really shitty snowboarders.
So do you think you’ll quit snowboarding ever?
I think I’ll always snowboard. I’m way more into just going to the mountain and hiking and being up there in peace and quiet now. I love riding powder. Riding Meadows when it hasn’t snowed though—I’d way rather rider Big Bear. It’s fun. Unless you are there that are with friends and your bouncing around the energy is coming off each other. It’s so much better when you’re with your friends, you know.
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