North Vancouver’s Michela Phillips comes from a family of famous athletes, and she’ll be looking to pull herself onto the global stage as well this weekend at the 2016 Wake Park World Wakeboarding Championship in Camarines Sur, Philippines.
The 21-year-old is the daughter of alpine skier Kathy Kriener-Phillips, gold medallist in giant slalom at the 1976 Olympic Games, and Dave Phillips, a former member and coach with Canada’s national freestyle ski team. Michela grew up on Indian Arm, a childhood spent on the water. She began wakeboarding behind a boat but has since switched to “cable,” a competition style that sees riders navigate a closed course with obstacles and jumps while being pulled by a cable suspended above the water.
In addition to training and competing around the world as a pro wakeboarder, Michela also now joins her father on stage on motivational speaking tours. The North Shore News tracked her down in the Philippines where she’s been preparing for the past month for her first appearance at the world championships. This Q&A was conducted through email:
North Shore News: You spend a lot of time at the Camsur Watersports Complex in the Philippines – how do you like it over there?
Michela Phillips:I love it over here – I get to catch up with my friends from every corner of the globe while riding at one of the best wake parks in the world.
NSN: What do you miss about Vancouver?
MP: If I had to choose one thing I miss the most from Vancouver it would be taking my puppies out on the trails on the back of Mount Seymour. Nothing compares to our beautiful nature.
NSN: How did you get into wakeboarding?
MP: Since I grew up on the water my parents introduced me to wakeboarding at a very young age. My first time wakeboarding was when I was about four, but I really didn’t start getting into it until I was 15 when I attended my first provincial contest. I just remember getting pressured into entering the contest and falling in love with wakeboarding, I haven’t looked back since.
NSN: How did you get to this elite level?
MP: When I first started getting into wakeboarding I decided to take it really seriously and I knew I had to travel to excel. So my first trip was 2.5 months in Australia once I turned 18 and I’ve been travelling around the world to wakeboard ever since. Everywhere I go I’ve had the assistance of so many good riders who push me and want to see me get better and that’s helped me immensely. Level 10 Fitness in North Vancouver has helped me over the last few seasons keeping me strong and injury free, helping me improve quicker.
NSN: What’s your favourite trick?
MP: My favourite trick is called Moby Dick, which is a back flip with a back side 360.
NSN: What does it feel like to be out on the water?
MP: It’s the most amazing feeling to be out on the water because when I’m riding I know that nothing else matters except what I’m doing right here right now. I’m always the girl to be riding around the park smiling and singing because I have so much fun out there.
NSN: It’s obvious you’re passionate about wakeboarding – what makes you so passionate?
MP: My passion comes from my need for adrenaline. I love doing big gaps and trying tricks that really scare me. There’s something about the fear of failing that fuels my passion to do well.
NSN: You have some very athletic parents. How influential were they in getting you to where you are now?
MP: My whole life I’ve been surrounded by athleticism so I’ve always had a good sense of how athletes train and compose themselves. It’s always been a goal of mine to be a professional athlete because of my parents, but I knew I wanted to do a different sport. They have been so supportive of me because of their athletic pasts and have mentored me into getting where I am today.
NSN: With your speaking engagements, who are you aiming to motivate? What’s your message?
MP: At the moment my dad and I are focusing on bonding generations and helping companies work well together. So often there is a disconnect between millennials and baby boomers in the work place, and our goal is to create a conversation to better the functionality of organizations. Soon I’m looking to work together with the Esteem Team to speak to school children across Canada to help them become more involved with sport.
NSN: What are your goals at the world championships?
MP: This will be my first time at the world championships, which I’m very excited for. I’m not too sure what to expect, but I’m shooting high hoping to get into the finals and ideally on the podium. There is such a high level of riding over here with an amazing turn out for females.
NSN: Where do you hope to go in the future in the sport (or otherwise)?
MP: Of course I would love to win the world championships one day, but I’m not at that level yet. If wakeboarding ever makes it into the Olympics it would be my ultimate goal to represent Canada there. We still have some work to do before that happens, but I can see it happening in the coming years. I also want to use sport to motivate girls to reach for their goals and get outside of their comfort zone.