Employee of the Month: Ben Player of Surf Lakes

Ben Player is master of the world’s heaviest wave pool wave. And while that might be akin to saying, “yeah, he’s the best chef at McDonalds,” consider that the Surf Lakes’ Island slab in Yeppoon is so gnarly, so thumping, that it’s led many to claim it as the most challenging surf tank wave in the world. Before it was decommissioned, The Island frustrated visiting pros, bruised egos and destroyed pool liners.

Ben is up there with Gabe, Mick and Andy as part of the 3X world champ club. He’s also a publisher and entrepreneur generally wearing any one of a number of hats necessary to make it as a professional bodyboarder. A few years ago he added Surf Lakes Ambassador to that list.

The role suits him. Equipped with a tack-sharp wit and aura of gentleness, conversations come easy with Ben and it’s plain to see why Surf Lakes chose him.

Ben Player is WavePoolMag’s Employee of the Month.

Ben Player in the tube
Ben at work.

What is your job here at Surf Lakes?
Good question. So my job at Surf Lakes isn’t really officially a job at all. Sometimes I kind of wonder what my job is here. I think that Aaron and the team kind of see me as someone with a vision that’s aligned with theirs. You know, I look at this facility and I can see a solid future in it, and I get excited about what I see. I think that from the first interactions I had with it, they could see that I was genuinely excited by it and had that buzz, you know, because the first time I surfed it, I surfed the slab over there on the Island. And I’ve never seen anything like that in a wave pool before. And I ride a bodyboard. I’m lucky enough to win three world championships, and I’ve never really surfed a wave consistently like that in the ocean at that size. So, you know, it’s perfectly suited to riding bodyboard. It’s a short, sharp, heavy little nugget of a wave.

Nice try Ben. But that doesn’t explain what you do here.
Yeah. So what I do is I get invited to come up here and surf. Officially I’m an ambassador for Surf Lakes and just surf and kind of hang out with the crew and enjoy the stoke with everyone. And that’s about it. y.

And what is what’s your favorite part about this job?
My favorite part of the job is actually meeting new people. I know a lot of people would think the best part about this job would be riding the waves. It’s a really cool thing, but probably my favorite thing is meeting people that are outside of my usual social network. Like I meet crazy, weird, different people from all different walks of life. Like some, you know, billionaires and some, you know, local surfers from around here. Or they might be a cattle farmer or something like that. And so you meet these really different people and I don’t really have a chance to meet people like that in normal life. So that’s what I like most.

If you had to pick something that you didn’t like about the job or is there something that’s become a drag? Like, what is the hardest part?
The hardest part would have to be that I’ve got a little three-year-old girl so it’s leaving home for sure. And, you know, knowing that I’m missing those times with her. That was a big reason why I decided to stop touring and competing and being away because I realised I wanted a family. I’m still traveling now and still having to say goodbye. So it’s definitely hard doing that.

What do you do when you’re not surfing with people and surfing the slab?
So my normal kind of 9 to 5 is importing and distributing bodyboards and soft surfboards. I started the business about six years ago with my business partner, Dave Winchester. He’s a retired professional bodybuilder as well. And so we do that as our kind of 9 to 5, but I’m still a full-on bodyboarder and love surfing and chasing waves. Still doing all that. I just don’t do it as much and I don’t go as far now. So my circle of places I surf is pretty close to home.

So you’re still in the water a lot.
Yeah. Yeah, I’m still in the water every day. I think when you’re bitten, you never, well you never stop, you know? Yeah. It’s kind of going to be with me forever.

On the job with fellow ambassador Occy.

Okay. And what is the most unique thing about Surf Lakes or about the setup?
I don’t know, because I hadn’t really had a chance to surf many other wave pools. So it’s hard to really compare and kind of show any kind of comparison, but. I think what I see in Surf Lakes besides the bathymetry of the slab – like that’s truly unique to any other wave pool. It’s really heavy and all that stuff. But I think the thing that’s unique about Surf Lakes is that it feels like a true ocean wave in that it’s most critical and steepest at the entry point, which is similar. That’s how ocean waves are, right? And so if you were to compare any kind of wave pool to a wave to an ocean wave, this would probably be the closest I’d say.

And what is the strangest thing you’ve seen while here during your ambassadorship?
Strangest thing I’ve seen here was one day we were surfing and there was a brown snake (the second most poisonous snake in the world). It was like right on the shoreline and kind of came into the water. And the guys had to run down and catch it. That was pretty strange.

I’ve not heard of a this type of snake
Yeah, it’s one of Australia’s, I think, second most dangerous snakes. I think it’s a taipan snake and then it’s the brown snake. So just to anyone who isn’t aware of where Surf Lakes is, it’s in cattle country right in the middle of rural Australia. So that’s quite normal out here. But when you’re dealing with surfing and are in an environment like this, you don’t expect that to happen.