Well-muscled regularfoot pro surfer from Tomakin, New South Wales, Australia; #5 on the 2005 world tour's final rankings; described by Surfer magazine that year as "a lead-footed power surfer . . . and one of the most dangerous draws on Tour."
MacDonald was born (1979) in Canberra, and raised in the small beachfront town of Tomakin, where, along with twin brother Anthony, be began surfing as a schoolboy. Phil and Anthony's father was a dentist by trade, but a hardcore sportsman at heart, a former trophy-winning surfboat sweep who stocked the house with all manner of gym equipment, and had an indoor training pool built adjacent to the family house. There were rumors later in Phil MacDonald's career that his radically pumped-up physique (5' 9", 180 pounds) was in one way or another artificial, but he was just naturally well-muscled. MacDonald, in fact, claimed that he didn't even lift weights.
While MacDonald brothers both developed into powerful, fearless wave riders, competitive with each other and the rest of Australia's best teenagers (Phil won the 1998 Pro Junior event at Narrabeen), neither drew much surf media attention. Anthony came up short in his bid for a world tour slot. Phil made the cut for the 2001 season, at age 22. His first four seasons were unremarkable, save for the fact that in 2003 he had a perfect 3-0 record against Kelly Slater, and thus denying Slater—temporarily—a much-anticipated 7th world crown.
Two years later, Slater and MacDonald met in the finals of the 2005 Boost Mobile Pro, at Lower Trestles. It was the middle of MacDonald's best year on tour, and he had already defeated Andy Irons in the quarterfinals, and Mick Fanning in the semifinals. In the finals, he again seemed to have Slater's number, but the judges thought otherwise, and MacDonald finished runner-up, in what proved to be his best finish as a pro. At year's end, he was #5 in the ratings—also a career best. One surf writer at that point described MacDonald as "the Aussie version of Taylor Knox"—referencing California's best power surfer— "with a massive forehand gouge."
MacDonald fell off the world tour in 2007, requalified the following year, then retired after the 2009 season, at age 30.