The big 5-0 with the legendary Phil McGain

Phil McGain (MauiSails) truly rose to prominence in the windsurfing world in 1989 when he captured the PBA Professional Course Racing World Championship title. Advance one year on and the Australian would find himself as the chairman of the PBA, before later becoming the chairman of the PWA, a role which he would hold for twelve years. McGain still remains involved with the PWA to this very day as the Vice President and is as competitive as ever, which can be highlighted by the fact that he is the current US National Champion. The Australian now acts as the President of one of the world’s largest sails brands, MauiSails, as he continues his passion of developing better and better equipment to enhance every windsurfers enjoyment on the water. McGain’s name is now synonymous with windsurfing, but his incredible talents don’t stop there as he continues to push himself to the limit by competing in the toughest, most grueling, event on earth, the Ironman. To mark Phil McGain’s big 5-0 we caught up with him to find out more about his incredible journey thus far. Read the interview below:

PWA: Firstly congratulations on securing the title of being the 2012 US National Champion. After so many years of competing how do you stay motivated to keep competing at such a high level? Also do you think your experience gives you a big advantage over your rivals?

PM: “I still love to race and compete. It’s always good to challenge yourself against the younger guys and put all that experience too good use. I don’t put pressure on myself now, I’m just racing for fun and if I do win, it’s good for business and motivation to continue.”

“My experience definitely gives me an advantage and with good fitness from my other sports now, it can be a good combination. It’s a matter of preparing my equipment and having my head in the right place when I get on the race course.”

PWA: In 1989 you were crowned the PBA Professional Course Racing World Champion, the next year saw you take the position of PBA chairman before also becoming the PWA chairman, what was your motivation for wanting to take on the position of chairman? And how would you describe the experience as a whole?

PM: “I enjoyed being involved with the organization of the sport and felt I was giving something back. I felt I was in a good position to help the tour and the sailors at the time. Also things were not great for the PBA, so it needed some shacking up and I think I was the right person to do that. It was important for me to have the support of the sailors and for them to know that I had the PWA’s best interest in taking on that position.”

“It was a very good experience, I learn’t so much about business, communication and met wonderful people all over the world. Plus I feel all the work we did back then has setup the PWA to operate more efficiently today. Rich Page has done a great job for many years and now Jimmy Diaz is continuing to show leadership as President. The PWA needs a strong personality to lead the sailors and have good organization skills.”

PWA: Having held the positions of PBA/PWA chairman for twelve years, did the role change at all? And what do you think the biggest changes to windsurfing were over those years?

PM: “There were many challenges from dealing with organizers with contracts, to rules, prize money, race crew and generally keeping a high standard of events. I feel one of the hardest things was keeping prize money high enough for the sailors to be rewarded. One of the other challengers was having everyone on the same page, understanding what the PWA represented and sticking together when outside third parties would attempt to undermine the credibility of the association.”

PWA: In 2000 you were part of The Team, consisting of Barry Spanier, Matt Pritchard (Tabou / Gaastra), Kevin Pritchard and Scott Fenton, which helped Kevin Pritchard (Starboard / MFC) to overhaul Bjorn Dunkerbeck (Starboard / Severne / Mystic / Chis Benz / Dunkerbeck Eyewear) at the top of the rankings as he became the first man to beat to Dunkerbeck to the overall title, what do you think it was about The Team that enabled you all to achieve this feat? And what was your personal role within The Team?

PM: “We all worked together and had high expectations, that was the simple formula. Plus everyone was talented, hard working and were smart guys. Everyone did their part, we all had fun travelling, working together and it was a great experience. Kev put together a great season in 2000 and deserves the credit for doing something so many sailors had attempted to do for many years. Kev worked hard and got what he deserved.”

“I was fortunate to be able to be involved with a multi talented group of sailors and I feel I did bring a lot of my experience to the table with testing and generally preparing for racing. But in the end each sailor has to perform on the day, Matt, Kev and Scott all did that very well.”

PWA: As part owner and now president of MauiSails, what was it that first attracted you to both sail and board design (Carbon Arts)?

PM: “I was involved with my equipment from a very early age and just wanted to have the best stuff to race on. I was technical enough to understand the variables of sail and board design and just worked on it continuously each year. After a while you realize that it’s what you know and you just apply the same principles to move forward.”

“I still build some boards today and continue to explore the problems of design of windsurfing equipment in general. Everyday on the water always brings new problems and old problems can be solved at the same time.”

“At MauiSails we apply the same principles of wanting to make good equipment, that is user friendly, simple and enables windsurfers to enjoy the day on the water.”

PWA: The Ironman is considered the most physically depending challenge on earth, at the tender age of 50 what gives you the drive to train for such an event and how do you manage to both work for MauiSails and train for the Ironman?

PM: “I’m motivated by many things which led me into Ironman and endurance running events. Personally it’s very satisfying to be able to complete such an event and to push the body and mind to it’s limits to get to the finish. It’s very different to windsurfing in many ways, but still has the technical aspect. Doing 3 sports (swim, bike and run) in one day requires discipline and management not only on race day but during training for many months. I enjoy the challenge, being in such good physical shape gives a natural high and it continues to amaze me what you can do with your body if you push hard and have extremely high expectations.”

“I also enjoy the social aspect of the sport and I still get to do some travelling as well.”

“Time management is the key to doing work and training. I don’t waste time, I work at night, up early in the morning, work 7 days a week, there are plenty of hours in the day, you just have to use them wisely.”

PWA: What do you think your biggest achievement to date has been?

PM: “That is easy, being a Dad. My daughter has just turned 18 and we have a very special relationship. She is my priority above all else.” 

“Other achievements which I’m proud of…..obviously being World Champion in 1989. Winning the US Nationals last year and in 2010 was very satisfying.”

“I’m continuing to achieve better times in most endurance events I do. Last year I did a 3:36 marathon, a 5:07 half Ironman and recently completed Ironman Asia Pacific Championship in Melbourne Australia, being my 5th Ironman distance. In 2011, I completed the grueling Hawaii Ironman in 13 hours, 1 minute.”

PWA: What do you consider the biggest lows and highs when training for and competing in the Ironman?

PM: “I have not had too many lows. I enjoy the training and my body has held up very well to the hours required. The lows mainly come in the race when your legs are screaming at you to stop running, usually towards the end of the race. But this is where you have to run with your soul and heart, don’t let the pain stop you….just go and get the job done.”

“Oh yeah…I know a low. Getting a flat tire on the bike during a long training ride. Haha.”

“Highs???? The whole experience is a high. You eat better, sleep better, do amazing things to an old body and if you keep injury free you just keep getting faster and stronger. They say after doing an Ironman you can do anything, everyday I remind myself of that.”

PWA: Best moment in your windsurfing career?

PM: “Again being World Champion was special. Some of the training sessions we had together as the TEAM were all good fun. We went to a lot of places, had a lot of good laughs.”

PWA: Worst moment?

“That is a hard one. Being a professional windsurfing isn’t bad at all, even on the worst times. I think probably getting charged a lot of excess baggage is a bad experience. Also when you have a few bad races and can’t figure out why, that isn’t much fun.”

PWA: Person you admire most in the sport?

“Back in the days of the 80s and 90s, it was Bjorn who was dominating. And he’s still winning today, you have to admire his longevity and perseverance. Of course we all looked up to Robby, his professionalism both on the race course and off. I had a lot of respect for everyone, Anders, Robert guys who showed up everyday to race and raced well. Then later Matt and Kev showing great talent and then putting in the hard work to get the results.There are so many, even today. I’ve enjoyed working with Micah (Buzianis) the past few years, he’s the complete package, diligent in his preparation and is always looking for an edge. The kids doing the freestyle is insane. All the great wave sailors on Maui….Jason has been ripping for a long long time. The list goes on.”

PWA: Favourite food and drink?

PM: “About half way through a marathon I love a coke. Haha.

I live on water mostly. Food?, lots of veggies…seafood, brown rice, eggs, all the good stuff.”

PWA: What is your ideal days windsurfing?

PM: “Show up at Hookipa around noon, have an hour wave session in mast high surf, then head down the coast to Kanaha for a slalom session, followed by an hour run at sunset.”

PWA: One windsurfing gadget you couldn’t live without?

PM: “My van. My tape measure and log book.”

PWA: Where is your favourite place to windsurf?

PM: “Maui..I live there. I think the big bay at Waiehu on a 25 knot onshore day. Nobody out, just some big swell and plenty of wind.”

PWA: Thanks a lot for your time Phil. Good luck for 2013 and the future.

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