I first saw Jeff McKee in the Orlando airport on my way to the World Championships in Dallas this past October. There was something very familiar about his face, but I couldn’t put my finger on it right away. Then it hit me: I’d hung out with Jeff’s older brother Billy a few times before. Billy’s a killer rider with a whole lot of talent and style, not to mention a great guy just to talk wakeboarding with. Naturally, I figured Jeff was probably headed to Worlds to cheer on big bro. Wrong. Jeff was on his way to compete in the Boys division – his first major contest ever. I didn’t see Jeff again until three days later, when he was standing on top of the winner’s podium with the Boys’ world title trophy in his hands. Mark my words: It won’t be the last time this 13-year-old takes home the iron.
You’re from Orlando, right?
Yep, Windermere, Florida.
So what about the Worlds? That’s a pretty big title to win for someone who hasn’t competed that much.
I won the Boys division, 13 and under, so I won’t be able to compete in that next year. But I was pretty much hoping to do well. I’d ridden in a few X Cup events and knew my main competition was from Danny Harf, and he was out with a broken arm.
Yeah, but you haven’t been riding a wakeboard that long, right?
About two years, but I go almost every day with my brother and he’s great to learn from, so I felt good about the contest.
I’ve seen Billy ride; he’s really smooth. Do you think you ride like him?
Yeah, a little. He learns new moves right away, but I think I’m a little more consistent landing stuff all the time.
Like what? What’s your favorite move to do?
My favorite move right now is probably roll to blind, the handle pass one. Or a heelside 540.
Speaking of rolls, I hear you play drums in the school band.
Yeah, but it’s the jazz band, so it’s pretty cool. We get to play at Disney and stuff.
Oh, I thought we’d be seeing you at halftime or something.
No, I’m not in the marching band! I’m only in middle school; we don’t even have a football team. But I’m not going to be in the marching band when I get to high school, either!
What’s going on around Windermere when you’re not wakeboarding?
Billy and I go skateboarding a lot down at the elementary school or around Windermere … until people chase us off and we have to run for it. Today we’re installing a new CD player in the boat that we got for Christmas.
Get anything else good?
Clothes. I don’t have a clothing sponsor so I had to ask Santa.
Does Blindside sponsor you for boards, like they do for Billy?
Yeah. I’ve also got Nautiques, Performance Ski and Surf, Reef, Goin’ Off, Hardline, True Ames, G-Bolts, Lightning Rod and Dragon. It’s pretty cool; I just hung out with Billy when he went to his sponsors, and then they started giving me stuff, too.
Life’s a breeze, huh? Quick, three riders you like?
Scott Byerly, Steve Wahlman and Thomas.