Man progresses from a sixty-five litre soft-top to a razor-sharp five-eight Mayhem over the course of eighteen glorious months!
The learning curve for the adult learner goes something like this: learn to sorta paddle, but never quite get it, learn to stand up, but never do it with precision and speed, and remain clueless, forever, as to the various angles and shapes of the wave face thereby consigning you to a purgatory from which there is no escape.
It ain’t pretty.
Common wisdom suggests that if you haven’t started surfing by the time you’re thirteen, you’re done. It isn’t going to happen.
Brian Fillmore, who is thirty-two years old and the current manager of the American Wave Machines-powered tank at Waco, is, in this era of the wave-pool, humanity’s first exception to the rule.
A year ago he was riding a seven-foot Greco soft-top of approximately sixty-five litres. He could propel himself into a wave, scramble to a vaguely upright position and complete a bottom turn of sorts.
Today, goofyfooter Brian is nailing chop-hops, can get barrelled on lefts and rights and lives for frontside laybacks modelled on his favourite surfer Parker Coffin.
Brian had always liked the idea of surfing, he just never got to do it. He was born in Florida and until his sixth year lived in California.
“I saw surfing around me and I witnessed what it was like to live a Californian lifestyle, kids surfing all summer and riding skateboards to school,” he says. “That was all stripped from me when I moved to Texas. I grew up on a ranch. There was no concrete to skate, it was all dirt roads. And no waves. But in the back of my mind I was skating and surfing.”
Life goes on, as it does and he became obsessed with, one day, operating the levers at a wave-pool. The old Flowrider stationary wave is a popular installation at Texas water parks and Brian knew he’d found his calling.
He studied how the waves were created, even researching how to build one.
In 2016, when Doug Coors built his now-demolished Wavegarden in nearby Austin, Brian was thrilled; when he heard they were going to stick an American Wave Machines pool into the cable-ski park at Waco, his hometown, he mobilised every contact he had to get a job there.
Eventually, he was given Cheyne Magnusson‘s email.
Cheyne, the Hawaiian whom, let’s be honest, put the Waco pool on the map, liked this super-keen, softie-riding VAL.
He’d built up a good work ethic at Moroso Wood Fired Pizzeria in town. Said he wasn’t afraid of a work day that’d start at six in the morning for two hours of private sessions and sometimes keep going until midnight.
Cheyne threw him into a session alongside Seth Moniz. Brian didn’t make a wave but he got the job.
And, henceforth, Brian surfed every chance he got.
He started to understand the currents (yeah, they exist) and was able to find different spots in the lineup where he could surf during a public session, officially as water patrol, and pick up a few scraps.
Progression came fast. Every day. Repetition.
If he wanted to practise backside tubes, he sat on the right and waiting for the particular wave he knew would slab. He knew which wave would deliver a layback section or a ramp.
Over the course of the year-and-half Brian’s been working at BSR, he became manager when Cheyne left to work his sorcery at a new pool in Palm Springs, he’s surfed with everyone from Gabriel Medina to Bobby Martinez and Chippa Wilson.
Gone is the sixty-five litre soft top. Now Brian rides a five-eight Lost Sub-Driver, a gift from Matt Biolos.
He’s learning the mechanics of airs; he’s learning the angles of approach, mid-face turn, hit out not up etc. His style ain’t exactly Craig Anderson, but who among us is brave enough to cast the first stone?
From VAL to minor-league shredder in one year.
Still, he knows he doesn’t have the credibility of a surfer who grew up swinging his blade at Snapper or Pipe.
There are no delusions of grandeur.
“It’s a kooky thing being in the middle of Texas,” he says. “But we have people here and they don’t look like your average surfer but they love it just as much. And that’s the thing that’s as cheesy as it is true. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the ocean, a wave-pool or being dragged behind a boat. It just takes that feeling of gliding and planing on a wave and going down the line to know that… this… is a real feeling. Some sorta connection with something.”
Brian laughs a little at the absurdity of his position.
A pool surfer.
“Even though it’s a man-made wave it still feels real,” he says. “It’s the closest I can get and it’s all I ever dreamt of.”