Is this what a wave pool addiction looks like?

Symptoms. Signs. Warnings. It all started with a blurry photo of a clear plastic back full of brightly colored wristbands. The image showed up in an Instagram DM and soon we began to unpack the story: Two years that included 140 sessions, 2,000 expert waves and roughly 200 cumulative hours driving through the Texas heat.

“I recently saw that someone got “Employee of the Month” from you guys because he had surfed the Surf Ranch 20 times,” said Steven Ward in the message. “That’s obviously insane, but I thought I could maybe beat that.”

The message came after Ward’s 140th session at Waco’s premier pool along with the photo of spent wristbands. “If you don’t want to believe me check with Cheyne Magnusson or Brian Fillmore.”

We took a stroll through his Instagram feed and verified that, yes, outside of the employees, he might surf BSR more than anyone else.

Steven Ward at BSR Surf Resort
Steven Ward has found his happy place. As a season pass holder at BSR Surf Resort, he’s on it whenever he has free time between job and family.
He’s got it dialed in, timing his trips when he can log more than one session per trip. Photo by Rob Henson

Ward lives in Austin and makes the 90-mile drive (145 Kilometer) drive whenever he can do multiple sessions in a single day.

“The sessions aren’t really set. If something is open I book it. But if I’m going, I do at least three sessions. No need to drive from North Austin for just one session. With BSR being open for about nine months now, I average about four sessions a week.”

Ward started surfing in 1984 Orange County on a Chris Cahill Twin Fin. But adult life took him to landlocked Austin where he now works as a paramedic for the city. When the American Wave Machines pool turned on in Waco, he was on it.
“I’ve surfed approximately 140 sessions (probably more than anyone on the planet except “patient zero” Brian Filmore). If my math is right that’s about 2000 waves, if I lowball it and say that I’ve caught about 15 waves per sesh. I’m sure its well north of it because I have had several opportunities to surf sessions that were during the testing periods.”

Steven Ward at BSR Surf Resort
“I know with a family I get “One Thing” that I get to do. You can’t try to do more than that. The Fam knows how much this means to me and in general have been great about it.” Photo by Rob Henson

One of the saving graces of wave pools is that surfers can plan their sessions way ahead of time and maximize their wave time. Pools will never replace ocean surfing, but then you don’t have to shirk a lifetime of responsibility to be free enough to chase waves. This is the “crossroads” choice all hardcore surfers are faced with at some point in their lives.

Which led us to question whether Mr. Ward was a lifelong bachelor driving to Waco whenever he wasn’t performing CPR to someone on an Austin shopping mall floor.
“The Fam – this comes up all the time as a question – as everyone thinks I’m at BSR constantly and that’s really not true. I’m married and have a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old. I try really hard to make sure when I go to BSR that it doesn’t conflict with being present as a husband or father. Of course, there have been some bumps in the road and my wife has come at me like BSR is the ‘other woman.’”

But Ward says his trips to BSR include family time with both his kids learning to surf there and his partner embracing an adopted beach lifestyle

“My wife has been there as well and loves it. She’ll describe it to her clients (she cuts hair) ‘The sand beach, music, nice umbrellas, beautiful lounge chairs – where else can you get that?’ But she never mentions the surf!”

Steven Ward at BSR Surf Resort
Steven Ward spends a lot of time behind the wheel driving from Austin to Waco just he can drive through tubes like this one. Photo by Rob Henson

Surfing wise, Ward said the hardest thing about the BSR Surf Resort is positioning and timing. And although he’s tuned into it now, it’s a big challenge for most visitors.

“The hardest thing to dial in is positioning for taking off. The announcers will say ’I want you at chamber number 5 or 6, six feet off the wall, and then paddle at a 45-degree angle. The water moves you around and pulls you out of position, when the wave stands up behind you, this is where you need to be. People have a super hard time getting that, it doesn’t take much to paddle in, it takes a lot of work to stay and be in the right spot.”

So is the BSR Surf Resort Steven Ward’s “other woman?” It could be. Like a siren’s song, he’s pulled to the waves whenever he can. But there’s more for him to be smitten with in Waco.
“BSR has been so epic. I have gotten to surf WITH the world. So many visitors, almost every current and former pro (so many stories on that), and it’s provided me with literally a lifetime of waves and I’ll be eternally grateful.”

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