Sailing into your sixties!
Meet the effervescent Philip Miles, aged 69 years young he has a windsurfing story that belongs in a novel! A book that is full of colour, from Nepal, Bali and Thailand via Portland, this is an interview that will inspire, intrigue and make you smile. It is an adventure from start to finish. A rebel with a cause, and that cause is never settling, honest to the core and hilariously witty with it! An old fashioned gent from a golden era. Age is no barrier, a regular at The Official Test Centre with his Fliteboard or Windsurfer you can't help but be enthused by his infectious energy and passion for life! The outdoors have always called out to Philip and this allure keeps him coming back, windsurfing sails across the generations and what a positive lesson that is for all of us!
By Emma Nicholson.
A bit of background...
Philip said: "I apprenticed in a graphic design studio aged 18 and seeing my future mapped out in an alarmingly ‘linear’ fashion ‘retired’ at 21 or rather, spotted a slip road, an escape. From there went onto a variety of different part-time jobs that funded a passion for travel.
"So in short, everything looked perfect when I was 18, but something felt very wrong and I was in a privileged enough position to get the hell out of dodge."
What is your secret?
Philip said: "I don’t think I ever really found what I was looking for so pursued everything I loved with ridiculous enthusiasm, mountains, sea. Most people have sorted themselves by 20 years old. I never got there!
"I’m not saddened by this nor proud, but I think that’s the root of passion, the search is still on! Important too is a lifetime of being outside, swimming, cycling, walking whatever you’ve maintained a core from an early age.
"Also, I think you will find that when you become really competent at a particular sport the allure dies, but if you never achieve your goal it spurs you on! I remember seeing a photo of Robbie Naish playing golf on a course in Maui when below him out to sea it was blowing 20 knots! I can barely throw a decent gybe after 40 years!"
"I don’t think I ever really found what I was looking for so pursued everything I loved with ridiculous enthusiasm."
Describe your windsurfing journey?
Philip said: "I fled to the water after falling through a rather rickety suspension bridge in the Rolwaling Valley in Nepal, end of my trekking career for a while! Convalesced in Bali and at a place called Sanur saw my first windsurfer. I was hooked, must have been around 1978.
"Passion is an extraordinary thing. We think of all the stupid, crazy things we’ve done in our lives our relationships, our passions our disasters and throughout this, let’s say, in my case (because I just LOVE to talk about myself) 50 years, there’s a man who has spent most all of this time building an exact small scale replica of Salisbury cathedral out of matchsticks, It’s quite beautiful….THATS TOTAL commitment!"
"At a place called Sanur I saw my first windsurfer. I was hooked, must have been around 1978."
Can you talk me through your watersports journey, from the beginning, right up to today?
Philip said: "So I’m in Bali, I meet an Aussie windsurfer who’s just returned from Thailand and tells me of this mythical island in the Andaman sea, it’s not crowded out like Bali, it enjoyed a fair breeze between end Dec to March in high season and some wind/ waves, during SW monsoon June to October. Head guy from the windglider company has moved production to Bangkok, Thailand, his name is Bert Mossenbach and his partner a certain Mr Vorapan you can buy your board from them.
"The island is Phuket, it’s a bit of mess, tin mining barges out to sea much of the natural forest felled to make way for rubber plantations, but it’s cheap, the beaches are stunning and the people very cool. It’s totally ‘once upon a time in the west', we are now in 1982, Dire Straits etc! The bus from Bangkok has what look like bullet holes in the window, it has a hostess like an airline she serves food on the bus! There’s a communist insurgency in the south.
"My first board is a windglider you have to put elastic bands around the mast foot or you will end up with it firmly planted into your scrotum when you uphaul, it’s massive it has a drain plug in the stern and a rather poor seam running along the rails, there’s also the mistral completion with a sprung loaded fin about 10- 20cm and our big show off is to launch down the sand and into the shore break!"
What is one of your best memories, watersports related?
Philip said: "The first time I EVER planed it was totally unexpected, I was cruising happily and SUDDENLY the board just TOOK OFF….WOW!"
"My first board is a windglider you have to put elastic bands around the mast foot."
What watersports do you enjoy the most and why?
Philip said: "There’s actually nothing that beats howling around on a windsurf board in flat water.
"My LEAST enjoyable; I used to sail in waves, but the stress of it, heart in your throat at launch, suddenly those mush burgers you saw from the beach look a lot larger as you launch and the winds turning a bit more on shore so that set of five waves is actually going to turn into 15 by the time you’ve got out and the tackle you’ve broken getting poleaxed by that last wave that’s not meant to be there (where THE HELL did THAT come from?) mast busted at the boom it’s ‘bits’ little fibreglass daggers, then the whole lot ripped out of your grasp and washed up on the beach like flotsam while your stuck ignominiously outside 50 meters from the shore gagging and feeling very stupid.
"The Fliteboard is great, lots to learn, lots of fun and an intro into foiling, but there’s nothing to compare with a screaming reach across the water on a windsurfer, the banshee whistle when you pass a certain speed coming from some part of the board….boom?….mast?….fin?"
"There’s actually nothing that beats howling around on a windsurf board in flat water."
What do you think the benefits are to people’s mental health by taking part in watersports activities?
Philip said: "Well, it certainly saved my life, I’m not sure it ‘cured’ any mental health issues I had or indeed have, it just completely BYPASSED them, maybe that’s the best way to go instead of delving deeper and deeper into the amazingly complex nebula of the human psyche get out on the water, get out and run, get out and cycle, In short, yes, a HUGE benefit…and the stresses the young are under now are nothing short of nuclear, but when I go down to The Official Test Centre and I see all the kids there I think you are doing STELLAR work it’s a wonderful outlet but I really don’t think we need a ‘cure’ we just get unstuck from time to time and a bit of a dopamine buzz does SO MUCH GOOD!"
"It certainly saved my life, I’m not sure it ‘cured’ any mental health issues I had or indeed have, it just completely BYPASSED them."
Alongside your windsurfing you have a Fliteboard, what do you like about your e-foil?
Philip said: "It’s an EXTRAORDINARY thing…isn’t it? Would you have believed it 10 years ago, you would have woken up and thought ‘Jeez, that was a weird dream’ yet here we are, the lift off, the sudden complete divorce from the water, what the HELL is going on here?…and also being a consummate attention seeker it garners quite a lot of comments."
"The sudden complete divorce from the water."
What is your favourite spot to windsurf in the UK?
Philip said: "Portland."
What has been the toughest thing to learn with your windsurfing?
Philip said: "The gybe, because the only time I have gybed successfully was when wind and water conspired to do it all for me and I was able to go round the corner planing all the way, it’s a rare occurrence."
What is your favourite brand of windsurfing kit and what is your favourite set of gear?
Philip said: "I absolutely love my On Cruiser which is about 20 years old, but it’s on Phuket and too much money to bring back to U.K. I bought a Tabou 125 from Surf Doctor and am still adapting towards sailing much shorter fatter boards, but seems fine."
What is your biggest achievement with your windsurfing?
Philip said: "Not breaking my neck."
Why do you think The OTC and Surf Doctor is so successful, as a brand and a place of business?
Philip said: "Enthusiasm, dedication and really important, professionalism, you guys NEVER lose your cool with the customers. I see so many teachers just lose it with students, we have one on Phuket and OMG does he ever get frustrated with his students fisticuffs and bawling matches, he’s a great guy but he just loses it, it’s highly physical work and your teaching at the same time."
If money was no object what watersports kit would you buy?
Philip said: "A whacking great motorboat on Phuket, so I could take all my toys out to all the remote and beautiful karst formations that litter the leeward side of the island and use it as a base, but that’s not very ecologically correct, I know but don’t forget all our toys are fundamentally products of the petro-chemical industry."
Who inspires you?
Philip said: "Author of a book called the wave, Susan Casey, Laird Hamilton and I guess George Mallory, you have to read 'Into the silence' by Wade Davis….Oh My God. Oh and also Jerry Lopez…the self effacement. The Yin & Yang of Gerry Lopez | Patagonia Films - YouTube."
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt throughout your windsurfing journey, so far?
Philip said: "Speed before haste, r-e-s-p-e-c-t. When your down…maybe the fins busted, UJ snapped, boom snapped just HOW FAR AWAY that beach you were about to come in towards in 30 seconds time really is, the effective horizon that whatever your height was is now just above sea level. Everything that was so close is suddenly so far away.
The biggest lesson I have learnt sailing in offshore wind in Phuket is there’s no one that’s going to come help you so carry spare fin, mechanical UJ (I have never succeeded in plugging a standard rubber hour glass UJ into a board at sea) a bit of rope AND Thank God for the mobile phone. Some years ago we lost two ladies who were going out to their yacht in a dingy when their outboard broke down, they had no oars, no phone, the dingy was found some days later way out to the Andamans, they were never found."
What would you say to others who are retired and would like to get into watersports but maybe think they have missed the boat?
Philip said: "Watersports for sure, swimming is wonderful exercise, Paddle-boarding, (although I never quite understood the allure despite owning one), Kayaking, great but I don’t think windsurfing. I am lower intermediate windsurfer, I did all the grunt work when I was young and quite strong it’s an incredibly physical sport to learn but once you have it it’s largely technique so all these fruity old gophers like me are out blasting across the harbour and everyone says it’s marvellous but we are coming out OR AT LEAST I am coming out feeling like I’ve just done 10 rounds with Tyson Fury and that’s WITH application of technique."
Where is your favourite spot to windsurf abroad?
Philip said: "Portland, because I still feel like a visitor in my own country!"
What is the best advice you have been given for your windsurfing?
Philip said: "Don’t ever think you are good."
What is your biggest motivator?
Philip said: "My own inevitable demise, my Dad once shot a squirrel in the back garden but it ran half way up the fence before it realised it was dead! We are all running pell-mell towards that fence it’s just that some are closer!"
"We are all running pell-mell towards that fence it’s just that some are closer!"
The future for your watersports what does that hold for you?
Philip said: "Great Memories of great people, wonderful friendships and relationships developed through the sport all the best people I know I have known through either kayaking, surfing, windsurfing and sailing, these sports transcend culture, race, class, MONEY."
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