Endless Wave – 10 Questions w/ Jeff McKee
1. Being plugged in to R&D for brands like Nautique and Slingshot, what’s your take on the growth of wakesurfing? How, specifically, is Slingshot approaching that market?
Jeff McKee: Wakesurfing is a massive part of the current “lake life” that people are living. It’s fun, social, and gets people in the water behind the boat who would otherwise have never agreed to try a watersport behind the boat. It’s a lot less intimidating for someone to go 10 mph and be close to the boat for moral support / instructions. There’s nothing better than the stoke that comes from someone’s first ride on a board behind a boat, and wakesurfing has opened up the floodgates for new participants in towed watersports. From a Slingshot perspective, we are focusing heavily on wakesurf designs that are suited for first time riders all the way up to expert levels and simulating a true surf feel behind the boat.
2. What style of board do you prefer and why?
JM: I really dig surf style boards. For me wakesurfing is about simulating real surfing so working with similar buoyancy and outlines is fun. Surf fins are fun too because you can drive and create speed off of them. We use the FCS II fin boxes on the Slingshot surfers this year as well so you can interchange fins quickly and remove them for quick storage, etc.
3. What’s the wakeboard/wakesurf ratio for you these days?
JM: Probably about 40 percent surf and 60 percent wake at the moment. I just got my new G23 in September so being able to control the wave from behind the boat with my watch opens up a lot of new possibilities for fun. On the weekends the boat is loaded full of friends and we’re surfing, then the weekdays are more for strapping in and putting in work – if you could call it that (laughs). It depends on who’s joining in, but to me the number-one goal is just to be out there enjoying the boat and making sure everyone in the boat is having a great experience.
4. Wakeboarders openly bash wakesurfing these days, but everybody is doing it. What’s your take? Should wakeboarders compete less in wakeboard comps and more in wakesurf comps if they’re upset about the prize money?
JM: Well I wakesurf because I enjoy it and my kids / family / friends do, too. I’m past the point of worrying about whether or not the hipsters approve. Of course, if the lake is glass calm I’d rather be charging at the wake strapped in, but for those super windy or choppy days why not join the party and have a surf session?
5. On the flip side, what’s your take on wakesurfing as a standalone professional board sport?
JM: I would not call wakesurfing a professional boardsport. Surfing is a professional boardsport. To me there needs to be a certain fear / risk to overcome mentally as well as a significant amount of difficulty / challenge to be considered a real boardsport. If you’re not putting your safety on the line and having those moments of courage where it’s a “do or die” type situation that gets the blood / adrenaline flowing, then you can’t really call it a sport. I think you have to be able to get something around 10-15 feet of air before the activity reaches the “action sport” certification level.
6. Where do you see wakesurfing a few years from now?
JM: I see the boards and waves improving for sure. The boat companies are definitely focusing on it as it’s a huge contributor to the success of their brands at this point. The fun factor would surely rise with a bigger wave at a faster speed.
7. What’s it like wakesurfing with a two-year-old on your shoulders?
JM: Awesome. It’s one of the best feelings in the world, hands down. To do something that I have a blast doing and feel that same excitement coming from my kids is amazing. They can’t stand to be in the boat while I’m surfing. They look at me like I’m a six-foot-tall strawberry swirl ice cream cone while I’m back there and can’t keep their composure until they’ve joined me for a ride!
8. Any transfer trick goals on the horizon?
JM: Some solid airs would be sweet! I’ve got a few 360’s across and the progression is way faster now that you can just switch back and forth with the remote rather than having to coordinate with the driver. I don’t know… I need to get a lesson from Noah Flegel, that dude has this stuff DIALED behind the boat. He’s a blast to watch surf the boat!
9. As a casual (ocean) surfer, how does wakesurfing help you in that world?
JM: Well if I can find the wave and take off in the right spot, I suddenly transition into John John with visions of Air Reverses and flips as I race down the line, but for some reason everytime I set the rail to come attack the lip it usually just punches me in the gut and rolls me around underwater reminding me that I need to learn how to swim better and hold my breath for longer (laughs).
10. Do you see wakesurfing helping the watersport community grow?
JM: Yes, absolutely. Regardless of how and what you prefer to ride behind the boat at the lake, there is no doubt that more people are getting in the water and grabbing a hold of a towrope to have some fun.