Conversations with Jeff Mckee.
Nobody lives forever. Wakeboarders, as with any other sport, have a finite time in the spotlight. Grasping this, Jeff McKee has a plan. With an undeniable passion for the sport and a family of four to support, he is expanding his horizons to ensure that for many years to come he will have a hand in the sport he loves.
Lately a little more of your time has been focussed on the business side of Slingshot, yet as a team rider you are still out there riding everyday.
Well there are 24 hours in a day, and and I’ve never met anyone who can wakeboard for even half that many, so rather than play video games or head to happy hour when I’m done riding, I focus my energy and time into the business side of our sport. I love riding, but it’s also exciting for me to be involved behind the scenes with companies like Slingshot, to be able to help create new products and work on the marketing side, and to have more input overall.
It feels like companies are starting to listen to riders more now. This paves the way to a life after wakeboarding, and transition to life outside the spotlight… but how do you keep yourself motivated in this phase of your career?
To be honest, I could never be a guy who just works in the industry and doesn’t ride, sure I’ll have times where there might be a deadline or something that restricts my water time, but getting out on the board is still the #1 requirement of the job. When I get out and ride it’s the reason that the work side of things is worth it. It’s the escape; it’s fully relaxing and creates excitement about the business side and helps motivate me to work harder because of the love I have for the sport.
Plus, you get to travel if you keep riding?
Yeah. Travelling, doing this trip to Australia, filming, running into new people… it’s all part of it, you know, it’s where the best ideas come from. From video ideas to marketing concepts, getting out there and doing it is what fuels the fire. We’ve come up with so many awesome ideas just by being together on the road in the pursuit of a great ride. Locking yourselves up in an office is the worst way to go about creativity. So working with a company like Slingshot they fully support that concept, you know they say “Hey you can drop off the map for two weeks, just come back with something good.”
There are a lot of riders that fall out of the industry— riders who get to their peak but then can’t transition to taking on different roles with companies, do you have any advice to younger riders now that will be making the transition in years to come?
Yeah, riding may be the foundation of the business, but in reality you are only going to last for so long and there are so many new kids that are so amazing, so you really have to try to set yourself apart. You have to be smart about the paths you choose and the image you create for yourself. Don’t burn bridges; you have to kick arse on the water yeah, but you’ve got to kick arse off the water too. The way you hold yourself, the way you communicate with sponsors and crowds… I think people who do that well are the ones who will find a path when their riding career is over. Personally I’ve still got plenty of goals left on the water, but I am stoked to feel at home with Slingshot and know that they have my back and value my opinions / ideas.
You are married and a father. How did that change things?
It definitely puts a new perspective on everything. You realise how much time you had, just focusing on yourself without everything else going on. I have got a lot better now at being productive. I get more done in two hours than I used to in a whole day, just because I have to. Haha.
Interviewed by Steve Anderson.