Born in Cape Verde But raised in Geneva, Switzerland, it was perhaps inevitable that Isaac Simhon would find himself on a pair of skis one day. What he does on those skis is anything but inevitable. After striking up a close friendship with Swedish superstar Henrik Harlaut, "EZ Panda" starred in Henrik's latest movie Salute—an appearance that is sure to have gained him many, many more admirers.
Isaac tells us about his style, his inspirations, but first up: why is he called EZ Panda?
Born: 14 March 2000 in Cape Verde
Residing: Geneva, Switzerland
Home resort: Started at La Clusaz, skied 2 seasons at Laax
Sponsors: K2, Full Tilt, Oakley, Harlaut Apparel, Chanvre DC, Riseup.ch
MATT: How did you get the nickname EZ Panda?
Isaac: It used to just be EZ, because that’s what my coach in La Clusaz used to call me. To refocus me after a run he would say, "Easy, easy." That would really help. Panda came after, because a friend of mine gave me a panda hat that I loved. I always wore it or it was attached to my pants, so people started calling me Panda. It’s just a mix of the two.
You starred in his movie, wear his apparel and otherwise have a close bond with Henrik Harlaut. When did your paths first cross?
We first met at the World Cup in Corvatsch in 2019. He saw me do a pretty chilled run, but he really liked my style. He invited me and my friend Valentin Morel to Andorra to shoot for his film Salute. I spent one week with him in Andorra, and he’s like my big brother now. He’s one of the best people in the world.
EZ on location in Minnesota for Salute. Photo: Josh Bishop
Tell us about your experience filming for Salute.
It was huge for me, because it was my first street trip and it was the first time I experienced real filming too. I’m so grateful; I can see my future in filming, and I’m so thankful that I know how to do it now.
In your young career, you’re getting a bit of a reputation for your style. Can you describe the way you ski?
For me, I think my past was difficult and I put everything into my skiing. I don’t try to have a style, it’s just something that comes from me. That energy gives me my style. Skiing is a therapy for me. Everything that I’ve lived through can be seen in my skiing. Skiing is natural and about flow for me.
Location: Minnesota | Photo: Josh Bishop
For you it's natural, but do you think style is important in skiing generally?
It’s essential. Maybe not in alpine or skiing on piste, but in freestyle and freeski it's all about style. Style is what makes people stand out and it's how you make an impact. Back in the day there was so much style, but sometimes that's forgotten these days.
who inspired you from back then?
Well, the obvious ones are Henrik Harlaut and Phil Casabon. They were the only two I used to watch, as well as Candide Thovex, Laurent Favre and Laurent Thevenet. When I was 15 I saw a video of Mickael Deschenaux he was a real inspiration for me; that was the start of everything. I thought the way he skied was incredible, and I still do. Those are the ones who made an impact. Now I can see so many skiers and they can impress me, but not like them.
Steezing at Henrik´s home park in Andorra. Photo: Jeremy Pancras
Did you have other plans last winter before the world ground to a halt?
After filming for Salute in Minnesota, I came back to ski in the Europa Cup, but unfortunately I didn't ski how I wanted to. After that, the plan was to head back to film until April, maybe even later, but we couldn’t because of Covid. Then the High Fives festival was cancelled this fall, but we could hold a smaller event for Salute.
Are you happy to stick with filming, or do you want to compete in the future?
Yes. I definitely have a competitive side. I definitely want to film a lot, but I want to prove to myself that I can do more than just movies.
What events would you compete in?
Slopestyle, Big Air and even Real Ski. Real Ski is a pretty recent dream, but slopestyle has been a dream since I was a kid. I just want to go to the X Games, whatever event. Real Ski maybe appeals more, because you do it with someone else (a filmer).
What does the future hold for EZ Panda?
I want to give all I can in skiing, because it's my life and my passion. I want to go as far and as high as possible and live my life on skis.
Big up to my big bro Henrik!