The ability to skate several terrains isn’t totally unheard of. In truth, most professional skateboarders are proficient in more than one area of street, vert, mini, pool, or ditch skating. But it’s rare to find someone who excels in all aspects of skateboarding. Names that come to mind are Bob Burnquist, Danny Way, and Colin McKay. They’ve spent the majority of the 90s making everything from sixteen-foot-tall vert ramps, to rails with dirt landings, and seawall drop-ins look fun. And in the process they’ve managed to avoid being labeled as a vert, or street, or pool skater. They’re simply skateboarders.
Andy Macdonald’s name can be added to that short yet prestigious list. But Andy Mac does it with a twist, adding a new category to the list of terrains: contests. Placing in the top five of nearly every street and vert contest of 1998, Andy’s mug dominated many ESPN X-Game broadcasts, helping make him the readers’ favorite for the category of Best Overall.
TWS: Do you consider yourself a well-rounded skater?
Andy: I consider myself a bit lopsided, but more well-rounded than others.
What are you lopsided toward?
Toward transitions. That’s what I skated growing up. I don’t spend enough time skating raw street–handrails, leaps down buildings, stuff like that.
Do you wish you did the raw street stuff more?
It’s something I don’t have as much interest in, because I usually kill myself. If you skate handrails every day, you know how to fall. I skate vert every day, so I know how to get out of a 720, but I don’t know how to get out of a lipslide down thirteen stairs.
Do you think it’s important to be able to skate everything?
The company you represent expects you to go out and perform in all kinds of crazy–usually whack–conditions. You’ll go do a demo at a shop that has a couple ramps in the parking lot, and all the kids there expect you skate like you do in the videos. If you only do one specific thing, like skate vert, then you can’t do the demo. It’s definitely important to be well-rounded so you can have fun skating anything.
Do you ever get bummed that there are guys who only skate one type of thing and make successful careers out of it?
No, because they’re pushing that envelope. I don’t get mad at them, I get bummed for them. For example, Eric Koston is an amazing street skater, pushing the envelope as far as street skate goes, but I know for a fact he can kill a vert ramp. So, I feel sad that Eric doesn’t spend time on vert coming up with amazing stuff. Tom Penny could kill a vert ramp, too–you know he could! I just think they have more to offer.
Do you ever feel like you get vibed for being a well-rounded skateboarder?
I think in certain situations, people become known for what they are best at. Especially in competition. If Brian Patch does well in a street contest, but he’s known for his vert skating, people get upset. I have experienced that in the past, but I try not to let it bother me. People just have to get over it. If you can’t open your mind and skate anything–pools, ramps, ditches–then you’re limiting yourself.
Was there someone in your life who told you to learn to skate everything?
No. It’s just because someone gave me a skateboard and told me it was the funnest thing and I should try it. And, of course, as soon as I tried it, I was like, “Yeah, you’re right. This is the funnest thing.” I started skating street, then I started riding ramps, then someone introduced me to pools. But the most important thing was that I just kept an open mind to it all. Slalom? Never tried it before; let’s try it. Slalom’s so fun! I hit gates outside my house all the time.
Do you think slalom will make a comeback?
No. But it doesn’t matter, because it’s fun to do. I don’t think pool skating’s ever going to come back, but I go pool skating all the time. I think experiencing all these things helps you bbecome a better skateboarder. Practicing slalom skating will help my pool skating, somehow; my pool skating will help my vert skating, somehow.
You’ve been on TV a lot in the last couple years. Do people approach you in malls because they recognize you?
Yeah. More and more because of the television thing. They realize they’ve seen me on TV, or they say, “I know you from somewhere.” It’s not like celebrity status. It’s not like Tony Hawk, who’s been around so long that it happens to him almost everywhere he goes. The weird stuff is when people recognize you and want to do stuff for you. I was buying some CDs at Tower Records the other day, and some guy was like, “Hey, you’re Andy Macdonald. Right on!” He gave me the employee discount because he knew me. I got two CDs for twelve bucks. And sometimes that makes me feel uncomfortable, because it’s not like I’m some rock star–I’m just a skateboarder. It’s rad that he appreciates it … it just makes me feel weird. I tell people, if they’ve seen me on TV, they’re watching entirely too much TV.
What aspect of skating do you concentrate on the most?
I probably skate more vert, because I feel like I’m more known for my vert skating. There’s more pressure on me when I enter a vert contest to do well than there is when I enter a street contest, or when I go skate street, because that’s not what I’m known for. If I make a backside tailslide on a ledge, people are like, “All right, I didn’t know Andy could do that.” Where as, if I don’t make a backside tailslide on vert, they’re going say, “What’s wrong with Andy?” There’s more expected from me on vert, so I feel like I have to practice that more.
What were some memorable moments for you in 1998?
The whole week of X-Games, because I’d just moved into a new house in Ocean Beach, and my whole family came to check it out. I had a house-warming party. It was just fun to have a place for my family to come to visit me. I did well at the X-Games, so that was fun, obviously. And I got to fly F-18s with Tony, going 500 miles per hour 500 feet above the ground. That was definitely the experience of a lifetime.