Travis Rice’s latest feature-length The Fourth Phase opens with a tranquil shot of a catamaran slicing through the emerald seas of the South Pacific. Yes, the pro snowboarder known for hucking double cork 1080s off backcountry booters and straight-lining some of the most remote mountains in the world, is calmly sailing at the helm of the Falcor, a boat he hesitantly describes as a “Bentley” on the water. For close friends and family of Rice, this scene is hardly surprising: He’s spent the last eight off-seasons on the water doing exactly this.
Rice first started sailing on visits to his family’s cabin in Northern Michigan. His dad, a ski patroller in Jackson Hole, caught the bug with him when they first toiled around the wooded region’s inland lakes in two-person Sunfishes. A few years in, Rice’s dad bought-in on shared ownership of 24-foot trimaran. For a few weeks every summer, the Rices would sail from Florida to the Bahamas.
“Over that time I learned through trial and error — with my dad who was also learning at the same time — how to sail,” Rice says. “In the meantime I also learned how to surf.” As the interest turned to a passion, Rice immersed himself in the sport — even hopping on Oracle Team USA’s high-tech race boat when he got the chance.
One summer Rice threw a few surfboards aboard on a trip to the Caribbean and scored empty waves that were only accessible by sea. From that moment on, the dream of splitting time between the mountains and surfing big waves in the off-season was his goal.
“It just clicked,” Rice says. “So I formulated an eight-year plan to get myself to an area where it’s swell season during my off time. I started just looking at boats and doing research on sailing.”
Summer in North America generally means small waves, so Rice aimed toward French Tahiti. The waves fire all summer and there are countless islands to explore that don’t even make it on the map.
“You’re at the mercy of your own decision-making, and I’ve found that true freedom comes from taking full responsibility,” Rice says of the similarities between backcountry riding and sailing. “It’s why I love going into the mountains, and it’s why sailing has become such a lifestyle for me. You’re forced into a real human situation. Something is always going to go wrong or break and you have to problem-solve and work together.”
The ocean also offers Rice the isolation he seeks.
“I seem to value being able to turn off the devices and get some real, uninterrupted human interaction for days on end more and more the older I get,” Rice says as his phone vibrates a few feet away. “Don’t get me wrong, I love media and that I have the information of the world a click away, but I’ve found that striving for balance gives me the best peace of mind.”