Invincible Interviews: Phill Gibbs
Phill is an Invincible Athlete, an amazing tricker, and an all-round nice guy. A couple of months ago he chatted with Lee about injuries, samplers, and the future. Enjoy!
For those who have been living under a rock this past year or so, Phill Gibbs suffered from a knee injury. He recently released his first of three samplers this year, An Ocean of Stars, and after numerous requests we managed to interview him about his injury, samplers and future plans for tricking!
So this is pretty much what most people wonder about most trickers; how did you originally get into tricking and what was your mindset at that time?
Well I first started doing a combination of martial arts and gymnastics, actually. My dad was a big inspiration to me and when I found out he went to world championships I decided I wanted to be like that as well. So I started out learning very basic Karate from my dad and then got a bit older and moved on to Taekwondo when I was about 7. Then my mum started to say “Wow, you jump around the house an awful lot, you should start gymnastics!” so I started that but still kept it separate from martial arts. I wasn’t a big fan of how competitive gymnastics was and I hated the mindset of “If it’s not perfect, it’s not right”, I also didn’t liked the idea of “if your toes aren’t pointed, you fail” but I carried on anyway. I did gymnastics for about 10 years although I wasn’t particularly good at it, mainly because I didn’t enjoy it.
I really liked the martial arts though and I saw a lot of films with all the cool stunts which I really wanted to copy. While I was at high school I actually wanted to become a stuntman when I grew up! I always wanted to copy the flips and tricks so me and my friends became the “crazy guys” who were flipping off of everything we could find, I guess you could call it freerunning actually. Standing back tucks and b twists off of stuff in the city, all that fun shit! At about that time we found samplers as well. I first saw Crazy Asian and Anis who were doing double corks and stuff, and I didn’t have a clue what was going on! I also found out about a gym in the city that was teaching tricks and I met John McLay and Alex Silva. Alex I think was the first Australian tricker to land double full, although he’s fairly underground. They invited me back and were like “Hey, have you met Scott?” I had no idea who he was but kept going back and training with them all. That was seven years ago and since then I’ve been touring around the world and training and having all kinds of fun!
You’ve definitely become a highly respected figure in the community over the years! Was it ever your goal to reach the level you’re at now, or did that not matter much to you in the early days?
Not at all, the only thing I wanted to do was trick and become involved in everything tricking. I became friends with Scott and John McLay and from the very first session I had with them they were landing tricks I didn’t even know existed! Scott landed his first double cork swing cork and it was so above my level of understanding, but I suddenly wanted to try new things. I attempted double b twist for the first time and I soon realised that I didn’t want to reach a certain level, I just aspired to be like certain trickers I had seen and wanted to land different tricks. I was actually very negative in my own head and I’d often get frustrated when things didn’t work out but I’m happy to say that is changing! It was always just about using it as a form of expression and enjoying it rather than aiming to reach an “elite” level.
In those earlier years did you suffer any serious injuries and if so, did they cause any major setbacks?
Absolutely! I’ll never forget back when I was an idiot and tried to land a combo in fake splits but ended up in FULL splits. I actually popped my hamstring and I’ll never forget the sound it made. At first I stood up and didn’t think it was that serious and then all of a sudden went “ohhhhh this is bad”. I think my hamstring has been weak ever since that injury and it still sometimes causes me problems today. I have had scary injuries in the past as well, for example once I was trying my favourite kicking trick which is boxcutter and I wasn’t concentrating properly. I ended up collapsing with my knee underneath my body facing the wrong way, and I can assure you it wasn’t very comfortable! It was the first time I thought “holy shit, I might not be doing this forever, you don’t always land tricks, you can get really hurt”. I was told I might need surgery and I thought to myself “no way this can’t already be the end!” but luckily it wasn’t that serious.
What’s the story with your latest injury?
Well the latest injury is actually the combination of two injuries. During the 2013 world tour with Scott and James I tricked as hard as I could and in Czech Republic I landed awkwardly at one point but didn’t think too much of it. I tricked as hard as I could at Loopkicks after that but by the time I got home both my ankles were hurting, the right one worse than the left. I thought I’d just rest up for a month or so but then it turned into ten months. I saw everyone I could to try to get advice on what was going on but most of them couldn’t find anything wrong. Eventually I saw one of my students’ parents who was a physio and she pretty much just said “well from what I can see you’ve managed to remove one of the ligaments from your ankle. Think of it like a magic trick, you made it disappear but it isn’t coming back.” I basically wore and tore it to the point where it “disintegrated” but she told me some exercises to do which would strengthen it back up so it didn’t turn out to be too much of a problem. That strengthening program took maybe eight of the ten months I spoke about because I’d spent the first two trying to find out what the hell it was. Eventually they got strong enough to trick on again and then I pretty much just fucked my knee up two weeks later. I was trying double cork hook cart dub dub dub but I fucked up, and actually the thing that probably did the most damage was the hook kick! I think I jolted it at a weird angle and then after each dub it felt progressively worse, until the last one where I thought “nope, this isn’t happening” and then just crashed. I tried to get up again and try it afterwards but I realised that something was wrong. I ended up seeing a doctor because it got to the point where I couldn’t bend it because of all the fluid in it and it turned out that I needed surgery on it. Nothing was incredibly wrecked but I just needed to get fixed and cleaned up, so that took a bit of time to get better. Thankfully I’m all good now though!
That’s great to hear! Were there any big changes to your mentality that you noticed after recovering from those two injuries?
Without a doubt! I don’t like to think of injuries as “blessings in disguise” but I can’t think of a better way to put it. As much as I think it’s good to have discipline, I took my tricking way too seriously and it actually became a bit destructive and had a negative effect on me. It’s very hard to see for yourself but I know people who are currently experiencing it and I want to help them, but it’s something you just have to work out for yourself. This injury has definitely changed my perspective though. After two years of not being able to do what I love the most I ended up in a very dark place. I started to wonder if it was a sign that I should be doing something else but after a combination of working through my rehab and seeing my tricking students feeling the excitement that I once felt, it all just came back together for me. I’ve felt a lot more positive and wouldn’t really say I’ve had a “bad session” since coming back from my injury whereas before that was never the case. I remember landing my first full in back out and being angry because I didn’t land it how I wanted to, I even told my friends not to clap me because I was so annoyed. That just shows the difference between then and now, and I can say I’m a lot happier now!
We all loved An Ocean of Stars, can you give us any inside secrets about the next two samplers coming up?
First of all thank you all so much! That one was more of a “here’s a couple of tricks since surgery” and then the funniest shit I could find, because I love putting together samplers that have the very human side of tricking. I think most groups of trickers have a collection of village idiots which is absolutely brilliant! In terms of Dreams Without Anchors and then the third sampler which is called “Elixir”, they’re being worked on even since we spoke last week! I’ve actually managed to add clips to both samplers already, and Dreams Without Anchors is definitely the bigger one. I remember planning that when Scott was sat there editing Arcade Lions and getting all OCD, changing things that I didn’t even notice but to him they were obvious. All of a sudden I thought “I have an idea!” and through the combination of Scott editing and us both drinking a shit load of coffee at 4AM, I wrote out three full pages of ideas that I had for it. Even things like possible names and songs, people I wanted to contact, any ideas that came into my mind. It is going to be a very “Kingdom Hearts” based intro, so there’s a little spoiler I guess! I really wanted to include all of this in it because I don’t know how many more big samplers I’ll be able to make, so I’ve been collecting footage ever since then. Dreams Without Anchors will be the biggest journey I’ve ever captured in a video because it literally takes places years ago up until now. I’m really looking forward to getting it out there and I’m really excited to finish it! As for Elixir, it’s going to be showing a lot of different styles as opposed to just big combos. It only needs three more clips and then it will be finished, whereas Dreams Without Anchors needs about five more. I have a lot of ideas on how to finish them both and so hopefully they’ll be done soon!
You said that Dreams Without Anchors is more of a “long term” sampler. Do you have any long term plans for tricking in the future?
At the moment I’m in a position where I can always stay a part of the community even when I can’t trick. I know some people won’t want to hear this but we really can’t do this stuff forever, our bodies won’t always be able to take it. I got introduced to a kung fu centre called Red Dragon and I now have a room to myself where all I do is teach tricks. There is an XMA side to it all but I don’t teach any of that, my boss understands that it isn’t really me. I’m so lucky to have this opportunity that doesn’t really exist anywhere else, to make a living teaching tricks full time! So yeah, I’ve positioned myself so that even when I can no longer trick I’ll still be able to help the foundations for the next generation of trickers grow and I’ll still be contributing to the community!
That sounds like an amazing opportunity! If you could give one final piece of advice to everyone about injuries, what would it be?
Well first of all, just love it! No matter what you do in life there will always be a dark time, especially with tricking. I mean I’m not the best example because I can name so many others who have had it so much worse than me. Tim Farley for example, or my roommate Jordan who has had a knee reconstruction. Although the grades of injuries are all very different, the place that it takes you to is still essentially the same. The idea is to surround yourself with positive people, not just in tricking but in life too! It might not seem like much at the time but when you get through that stage, and believe me you WILL get through that stage, you’ll look back and think “wow, I’m so glad that happened”. I wish the best of luck to everyone who is going through an injury because it’s a very big part of what we do, however it’s important to learn from it rather than be crushed by it.
Well thanks very much for the interview Phill! We are all eagerly awaiting the coming samplers, good luck with all your training!
Thank you very much!