Andy MacDonald has been a pro-skater for nearly twenty years, and in that time has become one of the most respected skaters in the sport. He holds the record for most X Games medals in vert skating, and has won the World Skateboarding Championship eight times. We caught up with him to talk about his best tricks, worst injuries, and his views on the Shanghai skate scene.
You've had a pretty awesome career so far. You've skated in the White House, won a hell of a lot of awards and designed an extreme pogo stick. Do you have a career highlight that stands out most for you?
Doing the first ever big air jump was pretty special for me because it gave birth to a whole new discipline in our sport. From the very first time I jumped fifty feet I knew some serious stuff was going to be possible with all that additional air time. No skater had ever been in the air for so long. Now here we are fourteen years later and Jake Brown just put down the first ever ollie 720. Amazing!
If you could only skate ramp or street for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
Ramps for sure. There's nothing that compares to the feeling of flying. They are also a lot easier on your body than jumping down flights of stairs.
Shanghai has been pretty good to you, with five gold medals in the vert competition. Do you have any special memories of your visits?
I've always enjoyed my time in my in Shanghai and look forward to coming back every year. The people are very friendly and have a genuine appreciation for skateboarding. My first couple of visits here stand out the most because of the big sessions and BBQ's we'd do post contest over at the SMP park.
Tom Schaar landed the first ever 1080 at twelve years old. Once someone's nailed one of them do you start thinking, where do we go from here? What can we do next?
Another teenager just landed a 1080 as well. It's just progression. Tricks that were stand-outs five or ten years ago are standard these days. When Tom was born, people in skateboarding were already doing 900s, so to him a 1080 is like "what? it's only another 180 degrees.
Have you had a chance to check out any skate spots in Shanghai, or has it been a case of arrive, skate the competition and then leave?
I've skated lots of spots from secret indoor mini ramps to a street course on the top of a mall. But the SMP park is far and away the stand out. Just the size of the place makes it worth going to check out. I've never been so scared on the first roll-in as I was the first time I rolled in to the full pipe capsule at SMP. So fun!
What are your best memories and worst injuries from skating?
My best memories: the '98 X Games in San Diego, the 2005 Huck Jam Tour with Tony Hawk, and last Spring on the first ever pro skateboard tour of India. And worst injuries: broken ankle, broken knee-cap, more sprained ankles than you can count and a few knock-outs.
How do you prepare for a competition, other than being physically fit and mentally in the zone? Do you still have to psych yourself up to dive head first off of those crazy steep ramps?
The ramps we are used to. The crowds, TV and sponsors can add a bit of pressure but I usually just do a frontside rock and remind myself that it's just skateboarding. It's for fun. I'd be doing it whether or not I had ever figured out how to make money at it.
You have been a positive ambassador for skateboarding throughout your career. Do you think that skateboarding is receiving more respect as a sport than it has in the past?
We've made slow but steady progress toward being accepted as a legitimate sport. Personally I won't be satisfied until there's a skateboard park next to every baseball diamond and soccer field in the world. But that's just me.
Skateboarding in China is becoming more and more popular. Is the skate scene here something that is being recognized in the West?
In the West skateboarding is so popular that it has been pretty much outlawed unless it's in a designated skatepark. China still has vast uncharted territories and huge cities that haven't yet started chasing skaters out or adding "skate stoppers" to their architecture. I think skaters in the West will be traveling to China for years to come and the scene in China is only going to continue to grow exponentially.
INTERVIEW BY PETER DIXON