Mac’s Waterski World

Troy MacNeill has been behind the counter of Mac’s Waterski World since he was nine. His Dad, Gary, first opened the doors on the Moorabbin institution in 1978. “Originally my Dad was a ladies hairdresser, then he went in the army,” Gary recalls. “But he was always involved, because he had a love of boats. He used to do a lot of diving, but he got involved in waterskiing, and ended up working for a waterski manufacturer.”

At the time, there was nothing remotely like Mac’s anywhere in Australia, let alone Melbourne. “At the time there were no dedicated waterski shops in the country,” says Gary. “They might have been boat dealers, or a manufacturer of wet suits, or a dive shop that sold a bit of waterski gear, but we were the first one that opened up solely selling skis.”

From skis, Mac’s moved into skateboards, and eventually into snowboards and winter skiing. “We quickly realised that you can’t make money in the winter selling waterskis, so we moved into skateboards and, in the early days, a lot of surfing equipment and clothing as well,” he says. “Through skateboards, we moved into doing snowboards, which moved us into the snow ski industry.”

These days, Mac’s is one of the leading retailers of longboard skateboards, otherwise known as downhill or free-riding. “As far as skateboard stuff, we do a bit of the street stuff, but our focus is on the really high-end North American long boards,” says Gary. “ It’s not skate park stuff – it’s going down hills at 100km an hour, bombing hills.”

Part of Mac’s popularity with long board fans stems from his relationship with suppliers. While Australian retailers often lag behind their American counterparts, Mac’s often manages to get gear on the shelf the same day it does in the States. “My supplier is really switched on, and we have a lot of the stock on release date, in-store in Australia, which is super cool,” he says. “We’re the go-to shop in Victoria for this. There’s probably only six shops in Australia that do it properly.”

Along with the skate offering, Mac’s also specialises in snow-ski hire, concentrating on good-quality gear. “Across the board, I’d like to say we’re not the dearest. We’re definitely not the cheapest. But you pay for quality,” Gary explains. “The stuff we’ve got is maintained really well. Because we’re not on the mountain it’s not being used every single day, so our stuff doesn’t get destroyed. It doesn’t take an hour out of your day.”

The other benefit of renting before you go, says Gary, is avoiding the queues on the mountain. “With us, you can pre-book, and pick it up the day before and drop it off the day after,” he says. “If you’re doing a day trip at Mount Bulla, you can spend three-quarters of a hour lining up to get your skis. It sort of sucks when you pay $110 for a lift ticket.”

As we speak, Gary’s kids burst through the door, all amped up after arriving home from school. Like Gary himself, they’ve literally grown up inside the store. Gary hopes they want to hang around longer. “Who knows where the future lies for those guys,” he muses. “It’d be good if at least one of them dialled into it, then I could semi-retire early like my dad did!”

 Words and Photos by: Tim Grey