Siblings Boston and Heilalas Phillips grew up travelling the world due to their father’s work, and when they settled in Sawtell only five years ago, they both developed an interest in surfing – heading out almost daily.
They’ve recently had a very successful streak in some big competitions, competing against some very experienced surfers. We think that considering their young age, how recently they became involved with the sport, and the fact that a brother and sister have both achieved such success is pretty impressive!
Hi guys; can you tell us about your history with the Coffs Coast?
We haven’t always lived on the Coffs Coast, as our dad was a soccer coach, and that meant we were travelling all over the world for his work. But, we would always come back to Sawtell, as it was where our family were. Eventually we settled down in Sawtell to live in 2014; this is when we both got right into surfing.
You are both surfers, and both currently hold the titles for boys and girls Under 19s All Stars in the NSW Schools Division. How did it feel to have had such a successful competition?
Heilala: When I won the U19 All Schools Girls at State, I was so excited, because it then meant I was going to Nationals. But, my favourite part about winning was that when I came in from the water, I had all the Sawtell Boardriders members waiting on the beach for me to celebrate and congratulate me! Sawtell Boardriders have always been such a great support.
Boston: Winning contests is tough with so many variables: other competitors, Mother Nature, all in that 20 minute pressure cooker! So, for the stars to align was an amazing feeling! When the siren ended the girls final, I was in the water about to start the boys final, and then the commentator announced that the winner was my sister, so I was celebrating and didn’t realise my heat had started! But hearing Heilala had won, I knew I had to win too – otherwise I would never live it down!
You’ve both also recently entered the Barney Miller Classic; how did you go?
Heilala: The Barney Miller is one of my favourite competitions. I did two divisions; the U18 Girls and the Open Women’s, and I made it to the finals in both divisions. I placed 3rd in the U18 Girls and 4th in the Open Women’s.
Boston: The “Barney” for me is such an important comp, because of what it represents, and Barney is such an inspiration to me and everyone in Sawtell, so I always want to perform really well! That’s what Barney would want!
This year I got second in such a stacked field of competitors, with former World Tour competitors Lee Winkler and Shaun Cansdell, and current World Qualifying Series (WQS) competitor and eventual winner Samson Coulter, so I was proud of the result.
What was it like competing on your home turf at Sawtell?
Heilala: It was super fun competing at Sawtell, as I practice on that beach every day. It was also really great to have a lot of local support through the event.
Boston: Competing at home is so awesome, with friends, family and local sponsor Coopers cheering you on. It inspires me, especially when I was the only Sawtell local in the final; it made me want to keep the trophy in my hometown. Barney would love that.
When did you both start surfing?
Heilala: I started surfing when I was eight, but I didn’t really get right into it until I was 13.
Boston: We were both introduced to surfing young, but Dad worked around the world, so we moved a lot, and at times we were landlocked. But from around 12 years of age we were close to the beach and surfed all year round.
Have you always enjoyed going surfing together, or do you tend to get competitive?
Heilala: I love going surfing with Boston, because I think he is a really good surfer, so it’s great to watch him so I can learn off him – because one day I want to be as good as him … or even better!
Boston, you’re working as a lifeguard with Coffs Council. What made you decide to go down that path?
Boston: Growing up in Sawtell, our family spent every chance possible on the beach, so seeing the lifeguards do their thing, identifying the ocean threats, really inspired me.
I have learnt more about the ocean’s behaviour, which helps my contest strategies, and the need to maintain a level of fitness is only a good thing too.
Heilalas, you’re currently in your final year at school; do you think you’d be likely to accompany Boston, or have you got other plans for when you’re finished school?
Heilala: I have no plans for what I want to do when I finish school, but I definitely want to continue surfing and competing in surf competitions.