THE MARIA THOMSEN INTERVEIW
Driving to Maria’s through the Pemberton, BC, meadows in the summer felt like a trip to the country. Her driveway is a...
Phil has a unique personality. Meticulous is the first word that comes to mind when I think of my good friend. Everything he touches is perfect. He’s the kind of human you want in your life. Silent, but very intelligent. This is apparent in his riding. He adapts to all kinds of terrain. If you’ve ever had the chance to ride with him you know that he has board control unlike most. He surprised many when he showed up on the podiums of the Dirksen Derby and the Legendary Baker Banked Slalom. After 12 years of strong video parts, Phil has matured into one of the best in the game showing no sign of slowing down.
By Alex Cantin
Photos by Joseph Roby
How’s your new life as a dad?
Dad life is great. We’re all doing great. Mom’s doing good. Baby’s doing good. It’s crazy, but it’s just a matter of getting adjusted to it all.
Your baby girl, Madeleine, was born in September, earlier than expected. Can you tell us what happened?
Basically, she was just born three weeks early. Thirty-seven weeks is already considered to term. She was just smaller than the doctors had evaluated at first. So, we had to stay at the hospital for two weeks, until she gained weight to five pounds.
It was more the day of the delivery that was super, super stressful. The two weeks we had to stay at the hospital seemed pretty mellow but tiring. You’re not at home, and you have to sleep wherever to stay close. We had our camping gear set-up at the back of the car in the hospital’s underground parking, and you don’t want her to be alone.
Madeleine’s doing well now?
Yeah. She’s great. She’s gaining weight. As I said, she was only 4.4 pounds, and now she’s probably on the verge of nine pounds. So, she’s getting bigger and bigger. She has chubby cheeks and all that. Yeah, she’s doing great.
Are you excited for the season? Is it different now that you have a little girl?
I don’t feel like it’ll be that much different. I’m going to need to plan my travels more, or better. Because last season, I knew she was coming into our lives, so I went on every trip I could and didn’t care if I came back home for three days and then left again. I’m going to spend more quality time in between trips at home. So, that’s easy.
Do you think having her in your life now will be motivating? Or will you feel scared to get hurt?
I don’t think it’s going to be either. I already think about every possible bad thing that can happen, I imagine it, and I do my best for it not to happen. Besides pushing me to make the most out of every filming opportunity, it’s not going to change.
You’ve been working hard on your house during the off-season. You’ve done a lot, pretty much everything from the framework?
My girlfriend and I bought the house almost six years ago now. It was basically a shell, there wasn’t even a sink or a toilet in the house. We did the kitchen. We did the bathrooms. We did everything. Changed all the windows, doors, built a patio, the flooring upstairs. We did so much more than we originally thought. But, now it’s ex- actly what we wanted. I started this adventure without any construction knowledge so it’s been a big learning experience doing this myself.
Very cool. How was your summer? You started a new job. Tell us about your new boss.
Summer was great. It was different. I started working with Nic Sauvé. He’s the head of development for this mountain bike resort near Quebec City called Sentiers du Moulin. He hired me to be a part of the development team. We’ve been building mountain bike trails all summer. It was pretty cool to build the trails and see how it’s done, and participate in creating something that’s going to be fun to ride. When you started cutting the trees, where it didn’t look like anything, and then you ride it… it’s pretty special. Plus, shaping jumps and berms out of dirt is just as fun as shaping jumps out of snow.
When I go mountain biking, I get a similar feeling as snowboarding. Do you also feel the same way?
Yeah, for sure. That surprised me the most, when I started mountain biking again, how similar it felt to snowboarding. Because you always think about skateboarding when you think of summer activities that are related to snow- boarding. I wouldn’t have thought biking would be that close. I guess you can find your flow on the trail and really play with it. It feels like riding at the resort.
Let’s talk contests. You’ve been placing at banked slalom contests lately. Finishing first at the Dirksen Derby in 2018, second in 2019, and third at the Baker Banked Slalom in 2018 and fifth in 2019. What’s your secret? Mountain biking?
I guess mountain biking probably helps keep the legs in shape. But all you need to do is go fast. [Laughs]
I’m sure people don’t understand how Phil from the Ice Coast is coming to these famous contests and standing on the podium. How was it battling with Terje and those guys?
Two thousand eighteen was the first time I went to the Baker Banked Slalom. It was really intimidating, the event itself is so iconic. To be surrounded by all the big names that have done so good every year, since you’ve been little the event is as old as I am. So, yeah, it was pretty intimidating for me. It was definitely a surprise to do as good as I did in 2018. To be on the podium my first time there, people were losing their shit. At Baker last year, Blair Habenicht came up to me after the awards and said something along the lines of: “When I saw you on the podium last year, I couldn’t believe it, it changed my whole perspective of rail riders.” That was huge to me.
Are you crazy about your wax? Or is it more about the technique?
I would wax with whatever seemed appropriate for the temperature. After seeing everybody nerd out on it at the races and getting a talk from Blue Montgomery, let’s say I started paying more attention to it.
Another French-Canadian, Felix Dallaire, has been doing well in races. Some great results in the past few years. He’s fast?
Oh, yeah. Felix has been going to the Baker Banked for awhile. I think he’s been in the Top 10 the past five years or something. That in itself is an accomplishment. He won this year’s Dirksen Derby, so I was super hyped for him. We’ve started to go to those two events together, we’ve been having a good time. He’s a super talented snowboarder. He’s a pleasure to watch ride and follow down the mountain, to see him ride all the side hits, he’s awesome.
Back to you. It seems that there’s a baby boom in your crew. Most of your friends are dads now?
Yeah. It’s kind of a baby boom. I mean, everybody except Ben Bilocq and Will Lavigne. So, yourself, Louif Paradis, Frank April, Nic Sauvé, Laurent-Nicolas Paquin, Max Baillargeon, all have kids. And Greg Desjardins has one on the way, too. The parties have definitely changed, but it’s cool.
Most of the Déjà Vu guys moved on from snowboarding professionally. Did that change things for you?
Definitely. It was a reality check when it started to happen. Because some
of the guys, like Nic and Will, lost all their sponsors after Encore, which were their best parts ever. They’re my close friends, so it’s hard to see people trying to transition from their lifelong passion. But, at the same time, all those guys have found things they like to do and most of them have kids, and it’s beautiful to see them evolve in different ways. Not that I didn’t already know it, but it reinforced how fragile our jobs are, and reminded me I need to enjoy it and take advantage of it while it lasts.
What was special and unique about the Déjà Vu era?
It was special because we’re all lifelong friends, or at least very long-time friends, that came together and made two movies in three seasons. And, I think, left a good impact on snowboarding. So, yeah, just the fact that we were all such good friends, I think that’s what was special.
After filming for major film projects with Transworld, CAPiTA movies, and Déjà Vu. Two seasons ago, you started your own film project?
Frank April hit me up saying that he wanted to build a project with me because he didn’t have anything to film for last year and knew I was kind of in the same boat. We hired Anthony Drolet to make it. Coco Bongo was supposed to be a two-year project at first. Because, why not? We can probably do it, at this point in our snowboarding lives, but then realized some sponsors would prefer having us present every year. So, we actually weren’t sure what the movie would be like as a one-year project, because the whole season we filmed in a two-year mindset. But Anthony did such a great job making the movie, and I guess the footage we had wasn’t bad either, so I was hyped on how it turned out.
You and Frank brought some youngbloods from Quebec onboard. How was it to film with them?
It was cool. It was Seb Picard, Mammouth Durette and Vince Grandmaison. For Coco Bongo, we only had a few trips with them, and they came out with us when we were in Quebec but it wasn’t really planned to have them full time in the crew. This year, it was planned from the beginning that they were part of the crew, so it was definitely different.
Are those guys motivated to go out and get after it every morning?
Oh, yeah. For sure. They were all motivated. Seb is so good. Every spot he goes to he gets a clip. He’s definitely got the most clips out of everybody. I can’t believe Mammouth’s motivation levels. It’s insane. He works night shifts doing maintenance at the hospital, and goes snowboarding every day by bus, with a push shovel and his board in his hands. Goes to a spot, shovels it by himself, gets the clip, gets back on the bus and goes back to work again. It’s inspiring to see that level of dedication.
The snowboarding industry is not what it used to be. Do you think it’s different for Seb, Vince and Mammouth trying to reach pro-status as you did a few years ago?
It’s different. I mean, it’s kind of crazy for this generation right now. I guess the days of the superpro are long over. They already were when I started. I think that the percentage of snowboarders who get paid enough to call it their only job is pretty slim, and getting slimmer every year.
Did you get affected by this wave?
Yeah, I guess we all did, for sure.
How long have you been riding for CAPiTA? Those guys got your back since Day 1, pretty much?
Since 2007. I had been getting boards from the Quebec rep that year. He told me CAPiTA was making a movie and that I should probably try to send some footage to them. See if they would use it. So I did, and they ended up using quite a bit, and even building a hidden part in the movie, (on the DVD you had to click to access it). That was my foot in the door with CAPiTA. I started talking with Blue. He added me to his program right away. That was the first time I dealt with a company directly.
Last season you rode with Frank April in Coco Bongo and you also started HOURGLASS with him, but it didn’t work out?
That was a pretty rough patch in the winter. We were in the Czech Republic in February, and there had been pretty intense tensions between Frank and Anthony for a little bit. It got to a point where both of them couldn’t get over it. Frank decided he couldn’t work with us anymore because of his relationship with Anthony. So, he decided to bail on the project and tried to save his winter the best he could. I had a hard time with it because, in my head, we were doing this together. I had to decide if I wanted to keep going without him, or stop entirely and do something else. But at that point, we had less than half of the season to go, I didn’t have the same issues with Anthony. And also Seb, Vince and Mammouth still deserved to have a project to work for.
I went to the premiere of HOURGLASS last Friday. I was surprised by how good it was. Are you happy about how it turned out?
Yeah. I’m stoked on the movie we’ve made. I knew we had strong footage
to work with and I fully trusted Anthony with the editing. All I had to do is let him follow his vision.
Johnny O’Connor is in the project, too. It’s pretty cool to bring a CAPiTA teammate in from the States.
I was really happy to ride with him, it had been a while. Since CAPiTA sponsored the project it made perfect sense to have him in the crew. He came on the Czech trip and had the guys over the border down to New York. I’m glad we could have him be a part of it. He does all the tricks and is incredible to witness snowboard.
The days of 30-minute films are mostly gone. We only see short films now. Is it something that you like?
Yeah, I’m down with the shorter movies. I think it forces us and everybody who makes them to only use their best footage, and to build it in a way that’s really appealing, and shorter edits tend to be more intense. That’s what I like to watch, like before I go riding or to get me hyped.
Does it change your approach in the filming process during
I think it’s more in my general approach to snowboarding, where I’m pickier about the spots I’m interested in. When I first started building video parts, I would find every rail in the city, try to hit them all, and film every trick I knew I could do on different down rails and kinks. It’s cool now, we can see the creativity in everybody’s riding, in the sense where the spot itself tells a lot about the person’s eye. It’s really interesting to see what people look at as spots when they travel in a city nowadays.
How many parts have you filmed?
My first full part was in SugarShack, Try this at Home in 2007 and I also had footage in Capita’s first video First Kiss. I think I only skipped one year since, so that’d be 12 parts.
You just turned 31 years old in September. Has the motivation changed over the years?
I don’t think the motivation itself has changed. It’s how I live the motivation that’s changed. I don’t know how to explain it. I feel when you’re 19, you don’t know fear. You don’t care if you get hurt. You don’t have any other responsibilities, aside from snowboarding and trying to get clips. Now we own houses. We have kids. There’s definitely more going on in your head. I mean, I’ve been scared this year, probably more than any other year. I don’t think it’s because of my life situation. I think it’s because I was trying to do stuff I was less comfortable with. But the motivation is still the same. Push myself as much as I can, outdo myself every year.