Employee of the Month: How to go from kook to expert in 18 months

When someone says they have the best job in the world, you tend to take their word for it. Working at a wave pool each day? That’s a great job. But what we don’t hear about are long hours (15 hours some days) standing in the Texas heat and humidity while trying to organize a group of surfers amped to shred. At its worst, it sounds like standing in a steam box while trying to herd cats. At its best, it’s, well, sharing the stoke while getting to surf all day.

As the manager of BSR Surf Resort Brian Fillmore advanced beyond kook status in just a couple short seasons. While most surfers struggle for years to perfect their game, Fillmore is now laying down advanced rail work and turns that in the past were solely done by either longtime surfers or protégées.

The punchy goofyfoot shadowed previous park manager Cheyne Magnussen last year. When Cheyne moved on to start his own wave pool in Palm Springs, Brian rose to take on the new position.

“I was 31 when I started working at BSR and I was still at a beginner level,” says Brian. “It took me about a month until I caught a wave at the expert session. Cheyne was our boss at the time and he wouldn’t let us ride anything but expert waves. Even though he knew it challenged us. He didn’t want us to get comfortable riding smaller waves. He wanted us to relate to the customer as much as possible.”

“Oh, dude you’re a real-life Rick Kane. But I’m not the only one. There’s a whole crew of us.” – Brian Fillmore

Brian had surfed a bit around Texas in years prior, but never more than a handful of sessions a year. Some years he didn’t surf at all. He says that at BSR he surfed on a 7-and-a-half-foot beginner transition board but that it wasn’t until he pulled out a semi-gun that he completed a wave end-to-end.

“After that, I experimented with every type of board I could. Shortboard, longboard, 54 Special, boogie board… anything you put in front of me I could probably surf. And that took six months to get comfortable in the pool and since we opened in March I’ve just progressed. I do have the upper hand being the manager and being there 70 hours per week!”

The obvious question posed is that if Brian is working so much how does he find the time to surf. He keeps his wave count high by snapping up open sessions and by pouncing on missed waves.

“During water patrol sessions we’ll sit in the middle and give people help lining up. And if someone misses the wave we’ll snag it. You get one turn in because it’s the end of the wave. And that helps the customers understand how the waves work too.”

So many hours spent around surf-able waves have helped not only Brian but others at the park.

“There are a lot of employees that have learned to surf in no time. Rode (short for Rodeo) is the wake park manager and he went from a beginner level and can now go down the line on an expert wave. But you could see how he would read the wave and study it and it was a weird transition for him. But the repetition is what helped Rode and what helps everyone else.”

BSR Surf Resort
The repetition of human-made waves allowed Brian to leapfrog in his surf ability. After starting his job at BSR he advanced to the expert wave quickly. Despite the unsalted predictability, he says that his ocean sessions have gotten easier.

Brian says that sometimes non-surfers have an easier time surfing in a wave pool because ocean surfers bring too many salted habits into the pool. Even frothing can be detrimental to a good wave pool session.

“People being amped gets in the way. Everything you do in a pool is counter-intuitive to what you’d do in the ocean. You’re paddling away from a wall where a wave is just mysteriously, randomly appearing out of nowhere. So when the wave first comes out it’s a foot high and doesn’t look like much. But then it just grows, and after moving 10 feet later down the line a 4-to-5 foot wave pops up. So it’s really tough because the angle goes away from the wall. Some people pick it up immediately. The ones who have trouble are ocean surfers because it’s so different.”

Another added benefit of being the BSR Surf Resort manager is the community that builds up over time. Brian has met the top echelon of surfers, from Bethany Hamilton to the Stab High competitors. These connections have linked him to a global network of surfers.

“I really like getting to meet so many people. It’s like a fellowship. Everyone’s cheering each other on. Right now I know I could go to a surf spot anywhere, California, Costa Rica, East Coast, Mexico and probably run into someone that I know.”

Main Photo by Rob Henson Surf Shots

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