Confessional w/ Jeff McKee

jeff mckee wakeboarding
Trespass and post it. WBM

Growing up in Orlando is great if you love sports like golf or wakeboarding. If mainstream sports are your thing, though, and you want teams to root for, the options are a little more limited. In fact, there is only one: the Orlando Magic. The Magic became an NBA franchise when I was a kid, and they were instantly a hit, but there are few instances where the worlds of professional wakeboarding and the ­Magic collide, but every now and again they actually do.

The Butler Chain of Lakes just outside Orlando consists of 13 different lakes all connected through a series of small canals that feel similar to the beginning of the latest and greatest water ride at one of the several theme parks in my hometown, but between each of these canals is some of the most perfect water for wakeboarding year-round. The Butler Chain has been home to some of the most established athletes in Central Florida, including Cobe Mikacich, Shawn Watson, Keith Lyman, Scott Byerly, Tiger Woods, Grant Hill, Bubba Watson, Ken Griffey Jr. and Shaquille O’Neal. I grew up in the Shaq era of the Magic and have always been fascinated by the fact that he lived so close to home. About once a year someone would spot him out on the lake on a PWC that could barely support his weight, so he’d have to stay at speed to keep afloat (at least, that’s how the stories go). I always thought I’d end up being the guy who would catch him sinking his PWC on the lake one day, tow him back to shore, become best friends, and then convert him into the world’s largest pro wakeboarder. Somehow that encounter has yet to occur, but there was this one time on a photo shoot …

So Shaq has a dock on the lake that sits in front of his massive home. A lot of times we’d end up riding the shoreline in front of his house, depending on which way the winds were blowing, and over the years we’d watched things change on the dock, but not once had we seen the man himself. At some point in his career, Shaq was named, or probably self-proclaimed, the “Superman” of the NBA, and shortly afterward he installed a 7-foot-tall Superman statue in the ­center of his dock to capitalize on the nickname and let his presence be known.


One day while we were out shooting, the water was a bit chilly, the winds were blowing the right direction, and Shaq’s dock became the obvious choice for a dock start. While I was up there, I thought I’d take the opportunity to get a quick pic with the statue. We took the pic, booted up and were on our way without any form of security chasing us off or alarms sounding. We made our move and posted the proof on Instagram. That statue had been taunting me for years, and finally I got the shot poaching Superman’s dock!

Fast forward to a few months ­later when I get a text from photographer Chris Garrison. It’s a photo of Shaq ­himself cruising through Instagram and looking at my photo of me trespassing on his dock. It was far from the way I imagined the two of us would meet, but in my book, it’s a win. I’m still waiting for his call asking me to order up some size 17 wakeboard boots though …

shaquille o'neill
McKee poached Shaq’s dock for a bit of social media fame, only to get caught by the man himself. WBM