Jeremiah is a passionate, motivated water sports enthusiast hailing from Tauranga, New Zealand. The ocean is in his blood. He burst onto the international wing foiling scene in April 2022 with astonishing results from his first event in Leucate, France.
This is a two part interview seperated over a couple of months.
Part 1: We caught up with Jeremiah in September 2022 during the end of his stay in Mauritius, before he returned to Europe to finish off the European summer events.
Part 2: We then added extra information to the interview in November 2022 after he returned to NZL.
Part 1: Tell us about your background, who is Jeremiah McDonald?
- What part of NZ do you call home?
I grew up in Katikati, a small town in the Tauranga Harbour.
- Have you always lived there?
Yes and no, I spent my highschool years at boarding school in Hamilton and from a young age a lot of my time was spent sailing or in the Coromandel.
- How old are you?
I am 20 years old. 21 at the end of October.
- Jeremiah is a cool name, where is it from, and how did your parents choose the name? What do your mates call you?
My mum taught a student called Nehemiah and liked the name, so my parents settled on Miah. My family call me Miah, and my friends Jeremiah or a range of nicknames like JJ or Jerry.
Water sports background
- Tell us about your first water sport?
I inherited a love for the ocean and sailing from my Dad, my family has a naval background and I guess this has been passed down from father to son like this for generations.
My first watersport was rowing a dinghy around the Harbour by myself when I wave four or five.
- Tell us about your first wind water sport?
The first proper wind water sport I remember was racing around the harbour with my Dad and older siblings on our bright yellow HobieCat. This was so much fun and such a core memory of my childhood.
- Before wing foiling, what was your main water sport? Do you still do this activity?
My main water sport if you can call it that in Highschool was rowing, I was super passionate about it and ended up winning a few medals and being selected for the North Island representative team.
I also really loved kiteboarding and before wingfoiling I was a kitesurfing instructor for a couple years.
Early Wing Foiling
- When and what was your first vision of foiling and wing foiling?
I think my first introduction to foiling was through kiting but I learnt how to foil behind a boat. I remember seeing a video of this crazy new sport (wingfoiling) which didn’t even have a name yet on youtube or instagram. It quickly caught my eye and I then became addicted!
- When did you first foil on a board? Tell us about it. Who did you learn with, where?
Tuapiro Point NZ. My first time wingfoiling was in super light winds around 8-12 knots in small chop. It was really difficult and it took me a long time to work out how to foil.
- At what point in the sport did you realise that you were addicted to the sport? Or, looking back, were there any real “stoked” memories that you have from your early foiling days?
-Muri Lagoon, Cook Islands-
About this time last year I took a job teaching kitesurfing in Rarotonga. I travelled over there with a lot of kiting gear and a Wingfoil set up, my girlfriend was coming a few days later with the rest of my kiting gear such as lines and straps. When I touched down in Raro I heard that NZ had gone into lockdown during my flight and all other flights were stopped. So for two months I got separated from my kite lines… and girlfriend. During this period I really got into winging and developed a high enough level to really enjoy the sport. From then on I haven’t really touched a kite since.
- How did the whole travelling overseas and competing in the GWA events come about?
After getting addicted to Winging I had started focusing on my wing foiling at home with the hope of one day getting good enough to compete.
When I saw that the GWA was taking entries for the first event of the year in Leucate, France I decided to apply, and hopefully receive some feedback on what I needed to improve. But to my total surprise my name was on the list of competitors. I was pretty intimidated by the level of riding I had seen on social media and everyone I talked to thought it was crazy considering I had just learnt my first tricks and how the world was with covid.
At the time I was working for Glenn at Assault Boarding Centre, and after talking to him I decided to give it a shot. I thought that if I didn’t go this would be something I would regret. If I went and it didn’t work out it would still be an adventure.
- Tell us about your first event (Leucate France?)
The Mondial du Vent event in Leucate, France was the first wingfoil competition I ever did. When I arrived I was super nervous because the level was so high!
There were guys doing some crazy tricks. Balz Muller, Wesley Brito, Chris MacDonald were some of the first guys I saw.
- What events did you enter, how did you go?
I took part in the Surf-Freestyle and Surf-Slalom disciplines.
We started off with the Surf-Freestyle event, I entered into my first heat with two other riders. It was a ‘single’ elimination so whoever wins goes through to round 3 and the other riders get another chance in round 2. I went out on the water to have fun, to perform the best I can but most importantly wanting to learn as much as I could from my first competition and to be an ‘information sponge’ . The wind was a gutsy off-shore ‘Tramontana’ probably between 12-18 knots. The water was flat and with light winds I was super comfortable as I had practised a lot in conditions like this at home.
In my heat I was super focused and was really happy with my consistency, when the results came through I was super surprised to see my name on the list of guys going straight through to round three.
In the next round the same thing happened again, with a little more wind. I was still riding my 60 F-One Rocket Wing and an AXIS ART 999, I think I took a 4.5m Strike out. Again when I came back in I was super happy to find out that I was through to round 4.
My next heat was the last of the day and it took place at something like 8:45pm when there was almost no light left in the day. I was up against Camille Bouyer, I remember him being super nice before the heat. For me it was a crazy experience as it was so dark I could hardly spot my landings! I performed what I thought was my best heat so far, and was really happy with my score of 17.6 but it wasn’t enough to beat his 23.34 – Camille went on to come 3rd place.
This meant that I had come 9th equal out of 48 riders, and I was pretty happy with this achievement.
For the slalom races I was much more intimidated, I had never done anything like this and the racing was over a very small startline with 18 lads going full tilt. The bad wind and turbulence on these start lines really shocked me and I found it very difficult to just ride in this. The very first race I did about half of the fleet ended up crashing in a big dog pile just after the startline. I had stood back abit and managed to do quite well seeing almost everyone else was still in the water.
After seeing a lot of carnage in other races I decided to use this more of a learning opportunity and watched how the best guys were doing this. The race-stars happen so fast and even now with more experience I still find them nerve-racking, there is a huge amount of adrenaline rushing through your body and this is part of why I find racing so exciting.
We ended up doing maybe 7 rounds of racing and I finished 39th out of 70. Although my result wasn’t amazing I was still really happy with how much I had learnt.
What about off the water? How were the other competitors? Did you all crash on couches, vehicles, or was there more official accom?
Going to the first event I didn’t know a single person, so we booked our own place.
- I went kiteboarding in Leucate in 2003 in some punchy 40+ knots offshore and know it can nuke there. The event had wind on the last day/early ? Was there much wind before or after the event?
The week before the event I was in Lecuate and it was nuking for sure! We had one day where the wind was probably 30 knots off-shore, it dropped and then before everyone had time to pack up it was going crazy again from the other direction.
In the earlier freestyle heats at the beginning of the event there wasn’t so much wind, we had some races in 8 knots on seven metre wings and others in 30-40 knots on four metres.
- What aerial tricks have you completed that you are really stoked on landing?
Probably the backflip and Rad7, but I do a blind 540 which is probably more technical and feels great when you get it right.
- Tell us about your 2nd event?
My next event after Leucate was Silvaplana, Switzerland. It was a stunning location with very very cold water. In the freestyling here I did pretty well but I got knocked out early on by Stefan Spiessburger who ended up coming second.
- How/Why did you end up heading to Mauritius? What are the riding conditions like? How long are you there for? Footage looks unreal!
We were actually meant to be heading to Hood River to hang out and foil with our great friends there, however plans suddenly changed three days before we were to leave so we decided to explore Mauritius after hearing so many raving comments about it! We were there for two months and it was such an incredible experience culturally but also for my wave riding.
- What are the conditions like?
The conditions in Le Morne, Mauritius are world class. No need to check the forecasts, there is a steady breeze almost everyday. There is a flat (and shallow) lagoon which is great for learning at high tide. And the waves, waves are amazing. The tiniest swells and everything above are heaps of fun for winging. Manawa, a slow and fat wave is perfect for foiling. For the more advanced riders there is also One Eye. This wave is super fast and breaking right onto the reef, so there is no room for mistakes, especially when it’s closing out. On big days the wave was amazing and probably one of the most exhilarating (and scary!) experiences of my life.
- You are travelling with your girlfriend? Does she foil or get into water sports?
Yes she has been a great support for me this whole experience and has encouraged me with all my watersports over the last few years. Unfortunately she got diagnosed with a heart condition a year ago so cannot continue to wingfoil or do any physical activity at the moment – but she’s really made the most out of life taking the big step to travel with me and has gotten into watersports photography, she has been taking some really awesome content for me. Check out @saltyshotphotography on instagram.
- What are your preferred conditions and what equipment/size would you use?
One of the things I love about wing foiling is that I have a great time in all conditions, from 12 knots gusty conditions on a 60L board, ART 999 foil and 5m wing in -Tarifa- to 35 knot days with huge waves and the smallest set up and can ride on -One Eye, Mauritius- and everything in between I always have a great time. I have a lot of foils high aspect and low aspect, that’s one of the things I love about AXIS, that there is always the right foil for me to perform on in any conditions,
- How is your foot these days? No footstraps right? So no airs? What other areas of foiling are you getting into (wave/dock/tow)?
While writing this I have seen some big improvements with my foot, after about 10 weeks on no airs and taking it easy I am finally back freestyling again. This time I had a chance to focus on strapless wing-foil wave surfing, tow-ins and pump-foiling (see the youtube pump video above). I have loved this other side of foiling, taking waves foiling is such a wonderful experience. When there is no wind I have really enjoyed finding beautiful places to spend the day pumpfoiling.
- When your foot is better, what moves are you looking at learning/progressing?
Some tricks I was working on before my injury were the Backflip and Rad720. In my next sessions I would really like to work on my consistency with these tricks on flat water. I am looking to land the frontflip next.
- What brands have supported you so far and are you looking for any further sponsorship? Any shout outs?
Would love to thank AXIS Foils and Glenn from Assault Boardriding Centre/F-One NZ for their support.
- When are you heading back to NZ and where can we spot you shredding?
I will be back in NZ this summer, either November or December. You are mostly likely to spot me riding in the Tauranga harbour or Waihi and Mt beaches, but my trusty van and I are always ready to chase the conditions if need be.
- What do the coming 2-4 months look like for you? Will you head to the GWA events in 2023?
After the GWA Tarifa Event, this October I am planning to come home to NZ, with maybe a stop in Brazil on the way.
Part 2: November update
Jeremiah, it is now early November, welcome back to New Zealand.
Thanks man, great to be back.
Tell us, how was the last stint of the Euro travels? Where did you go, what events did you enter, what did you learn?
After leaving Mauritius I went straight to the Freestyle Cup in Cavalaire-Sur-Mer, France. I had a great time, this was probably the most fun I had at any event. It wasn’t a world tour event but there were a lot of pro level riders, guys like Gollito, Mathis Ghio, the Bouyer brothers etc. We ended up racing in the craziest conditions I think anyone there had competed in. It was really gusty and there were big patches of zero wind on the course. I took out a 6.3m wing and as we’re racing towards the start line a 40 knot gust came through! Everyone who didn’t see it coming went flying away from their boards, then to make it even worse there wasn’t any wind afterwards to start again. It was pretty much like this the whole time.
I only planned to compete in Slalom, due to my injury, but I decided to take a forgiving foil (AXIS BSC 810) and gave it back. I ended up placing 11th in both comps and was happy to leave with some nice prize money.
Then with fellow Axis rider Oscar Leclair I drove across France and Spain to Galicia, for a GWA qualifying series event.
I placed 6th in the Slalom here and 5th in Freestyle, leaving me winning the overall Ibearian Wingfoil tour, and the current GWA qualifying series leader in points in Slalom and Freestyle as of the time of writing.
How did you injure your foot?
I was training in Tarifa, Spain about a week before the GWA Freestyle competition there in early October. I thought my foot had pretty much recovered, so I started to do bigger and blogger tricks and there was some small pain but I felt pretty good and I was so excited to be back. I was working on getting some height on a flat water backflip and I landed really hard. My foot was compressed into the footstrap and I dislocated some joints in my foot and did some damage to the tendons.
It was quite a lot of pain but after a week, some treatment with a specialist who thought the risk of severe damage was quite low I decided to try continue with the competition. I did this as I knew that if I didn’t get a score I wouldn’t automatically qualify for a place on the tour next year.
In the first round I struggled a lot, in round 2 the first half was a mess and the guy I was against went really well, so I decided to really push it. I ended up doing one of the better heats I’ve done, and as the next question leads into, I was really happy to land a backflip on the flat despite my injury. but unfortunately I just missed out by 20 something to my 19 points.
I see on your instagram you landed a flat water backflip in a comp…. That’s awesome mate, lead us into it, do you have any tips to pass on to other flipping frothers?
Learning to backflip is quite scary. As it’s hard to get much height at the beginning everything is over very, very quickly. Before you understand the movement or as you’re learning it’s quite disorientating.
What are the perfect conditions to learn?
You want to be on a small wing so ideally under 4m depending on your size. The smaller the better. I would also recommend that this is an old wing as you should expect to put the foil through the wing a few times.
You also want a kicker wave to jump off when you do the trick so you don’t have to go so high.
I would also recommend that you would use a longer mast, again so you don’t have to jump so high, I learnt on my 90cm Axis Power Carbon Mast.
Now your ready to try:
The most important aspect is to fully commit yourself to the trick.
I really recommend practising/ visualising each of these steps on the beach or on the water before you try it all at once.
Step 1) Gain speed and pick a wave to jump from
Step 2) Time the wave to jump at the top of the wave
Step 3) Jump up (Convert your speed into height, popping up and not covering so much distance horizontally)
Step 4) Look up and behind you, and push your hands back over your head from now until landing. This will initiate the rotation.
Step 5) Tighten your core and tuck your legs in slightly
Step 6) When you are upside down, push the wing up and above/behind your head. (To ensure the wing doesn’t hit the water or the trailing edge of the wing is trapped under the board when you land)
Step 7) Spot the landing, brace your knees. Try to level the board so you avoid nose diving.
If you can nail all these steps you’ll be well on your way to backflipping in no time.
What is next for your New Zealand summer?
It’s great to be back home and spend time with family and friends again. I can’t wait to recover enough to get back on the water.
I’m doing foiling lessons in Katikati/Waihi Beach, and I’m planning some intermediate/advanced wingfoil coaching clinics. If anyone is interested in one of these feel free to send me a direct message or email on firstname.lastname@example.org
What’s your social media handle so frothers can follow you?
I am @jeremiah_mcdonald on Instagram and Youtube and Jeremiah_mcd on tiktok.
Jeremiah, thanks a bunch for your time and giving us an insight into your foil journey so far, and we look forward to seeing more from you in 2023. All the best with the travels and heeling of that foot. Is there anything else you would like to share or leave us on?
I just want to add that I’m super excited to be back in NZ after the 2022 season. Thanks Steffo for your time and for making this awesome platform to help us to enjoy and share foiling.
Awesome mate, see you on the water.