The US’s Christopher MacDonald won the GWA Surf-Freestyle world title this year at the age of 17. He closed the deal at the sixth and penultimate stop of the GWA Wingfoil World Tour in Tarifa, southern Spain, in October. From Oregon’s Hood River, MacDonald took time out to speak to Ian MacKinnon about his triumph and his goals for the new season which is coming in hot.
Question: How do you feel at the age of 17 to get the world title?
Christopher MacDonald: Yes, I’ve worked really hard for this, training almost every day of the year. Seven events—that’s a lot of travelling and a lot of hard work. But it’s all worth it in the end. The feeling is like nothing else, being the world champion. Hopefully, I can do it again next year and keep it up.
Q: What changed this year to help you get there?
CM: After being knocked off the podium last year I had a lot of motivation for this year. I really thought I could win it and I worked as hard as I could. I’ve had a couple of down events. I won the first event [in New Zealand] and then got a fifth in France. That’s when I was really motivated, and from there everything went pretty smoothly. I ended up winning the Canary Islands events and that’s when my momentum really started.
Q: Your riding at the Canary Islands events was on another plane. What happened in those two or three months beforehand?
CM: I had a lot of wind here in Hood River, and there’s a big similarity between Hood River and the Canary Islands. Hood River is super-windy, so I feel more natural in 50 knots, that 15 knots.
Q: If you go to an event that’s less windy do you feel at a disadvantage?
CM: I don’t think I’m at a disadvantage, I think it just takes more time to get used to it. But once I get used to it, I just click into gear and it feels natural to me.
Q: At the Surf-Freestyle events with a mixed format of waves and freestyle you seemed to struggle a little?
CM: For me in Denmark I did feel at a disadvantage [in a mixed format] because for me I’m not used to the waves. I’m more used to bumps that aren’t breaking. But in Brazil, something just clicked for me and I’m much more natural in the waves and my scores were a lot higher.
Q: Are the waves something you need to work on?
CM: I think I definitely need to work on the waves still. But I don’t think it’s a huge catch up, going by the last event. I think just a little bit more training in Mexico will help.
Q: Do you think it will keep going upwards so quickly, or will the progression slow down?
CM: I think at the start of the year we were kind-of stuck in these three tricks: a Back Flip, Front Flip and 720. Then after Leucate [France] where we had the innovation score, that’s when it really blew up, and now there are hundreds of new tricks.
Also, the boom has introduced a lot of new tricks: handle passes and one-handed flips and a ton of new things.
Q: Has technology in wingfoiing also driven the progression?
CM: The wings are getting better. I can spin much faster than I did last year. And with the boom you can do one-handed tricks.
Q: Do you feel excited by the progression?
CM: Yes, I just can wait to try out these new tricks I’m seeing and pretty much expect next year to be even higher. Everyone’s going to do even more stuff.
Q: What are your goals beyond defending your title?
CM: Right now, I’m going down to Mexico, and I’m just going to enjoy it. I’m going to do a lot of surf-foiling, and kiting. I’m going to embrace myself as a waterman in trying as many new sports as I can.
There are a ton of kids down there who love winging. I can’t wait to teach them and inspire them and it will be really fun. Next year, of course, I’ll do the Surf-Freestyle tour, as well as the FreeFly-Slalom.