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The regulars at the D-Rex in Durban has included a mishmash of people from a myriad of backgrounds over the years. Originally dominated by some of South Africa’s top surfers (among them Travis Logie, Grant Baker and Warwick Wright) the Wave House crew evolved into a hybrid community where boardriders from diverse backgrounds unified under a new name – flowboarders. Matt Lammers was a world-class wakeboarder, Greg Lazarus and Rob Whyte were provincial surfers, Marta Jekot was a sponsored snowboarder and Tyrone Rawlins had a stranglehold on the scene for years, dominating contests between stops on the world kiteboarding circuit. The rest of the crew all hailed from different sports and brought their own influences to the sport…
Into this scene arrives Wesley Fischer, one of South Africa’s most respected bodyboarders and a member of the 2006 South African team at the ISA World Surfing Games. Wes was already well-known in the bodyboarding community for his professionalism, determination and raw talent. Wes began working at Wave House Durban to subsidise his pursuit of glory on the bodyboarding world tour, and as he took his bodyboarding talent to the wave he quickly began pushing the envelope of what the established crew thought possible. Ever keen to further himself and try new things, it wasn’t long before Wes was alternating between bodyboarding and stand-up, nurturing his strapless riding.
Then in early 2009, Wave House international announced the first International Flowboarding Championships (IFC) at the opening of Wave House Sentosa in Singapore. Having already traveled and competed extensively as a bodyboarder, Wes made the conscious decision that he wanted to be a part of the first South African Flowboarding team. Knowing that only one bodyboarder would be included and that that position would be hard-fought for by guys like Billy Tennant, Michael Olsen and Stephen Janssens, Wes decided to work on his stand-up riding to give himself two chances at making the team.
The Dark Horse went to work in his quiet, determined way, and when the trial contests for the IFC team began Wes exploded onto the scene. The progression in his riding was mind-blowing and the entire community was abuzz with how much Wes had improved over the few months leading up to the trials. Having made the team Wes still knew his work was cut out for him. Coming up against the likes of Greg Lazarus, Matt Lammers, and Eric Silverman, Wes would be taking on three of the world’s best flowboarders, guys that specialized in left flow barrels and had dominated the flowboarding scene for years. Again, Wes dug deep. In the ultimate fairy tale ending, the Dark Horse from South Africa went on to take out the big names and emerge as the first ever World Flowboarding Champion. We wanted find out a little more about this enigmatic character...
Wave House: Hi Wes. First up, can you give us the essentials: Name, Nickname, Home Town, Age and Sponsors?
Wes: My name is Wesley Fischer, but my friends call me Wes. I live in Umhlanga Rocks, South Africa and my nickname is Ballhairz. Pretty derogatory - shame (laughs). I’m 23 now and sponsored by HB bodyboards, Vitamin Water and Wave House Durban. I’m hoping a couple more will come on board now!
WH: How did it feel to be crowned the first ever IFC World Champion?
Wes: It was pretty surreal… I didn’t expect it at all and I don’t think anybody else did to be honest! It was such a unique experience. The event itself was super. Big up to all the big dogs who put it together like Bob, Aaron, Tom and their team. I’m just very grateful to be part of history in a sense. The wave had some coughs and sniffles I guess but the maintenance team from Singapore did a good job in getting ready for us.
WH: How long have you been flowboarding?
Wes: I think about six years on the bodyboard and about two years on the stand up. I only started taking stand up real serious in March 2009. I started working at Wave House soon after I turned 17 in the December summer holidays and it was rad - probably the best job ever! I learned how to skate while working there, I loved the bowls and mini ramp. I started tickling at the stand up when I was about 20, but wasn’t serious then, I just wanted to be like (Rob) Machado. I guess it just blossomed from there.
WH: When you rock up at the D-Rex to flow, how do you choose which discipline to ride that day?
Wes: Well I love strapless riding, the way it makes me feel and the actual freedom I have on the board, I will ride that almost every session. I only took strapped riding seriously for the first time, honestly, while I was in Singapore… It’s new for me. But bodyboarding is my passion and I’ll end up doing it about once or twice week. Run-ins have become a major part of my bodyboarding on the flow barrel, so I do that often…
WH: How does the FlowBarrel® in Singapore compare with the wave in Durban?
Wes: First and foremost, it’s softer! And I don’t mean the wave, I mean the covering. It was like a cushion. The South Africans loved it there… Also the vert of the wave is a lot sharper as you’re coming out the barrel, which was different but very cool for us! Good for bodyboarding especially because the landings were a lot softer on the body.
WH: You’ve ridden a couple of the FlowBarrels around the world. How do they compare to Singapore and Durban?
Wes: Ya, I have been to Dubai, San Diego and now Singapore. San Diego and Singapore were fairly similar, not too many differences between the two. The water speed in Durban is a lot faster than the other FlowBarrels and also thicker (the water that is). The surfaces of San Diego and Singapore were soft and that was a pleasure to ride, whereas Durban has concrete under the foam and isn’t as nice to eat it on. All the wave shapes are different and it takes a couple hours to get used to each.
WH: You're an accomplished surfer and bodyboarder. Does flowboarding compliment these sports?
Wes: Big time… Before going to Hawaii my first season a couple years ago, flowboarding was all the fitness I needed for the season there. It’s a big workout when riding for an hour! It helps strengthen, and I think build, the same muscles I use in the ocean… There is so much energy on the flow barrel that it prepares me for riding bigger surf which is rad.
WH: What is your dream holiday mission?
Wes: Right now it would be West Oz, then the Philippines and then on to Hawaii. Just spending my time surfing and cruising and probably doing some diving… Decent!
WH: What sort of music are you into?
Wes: I don’t like saying I only listen to one ‘style’ of music but I do like positive music, which influences me to be a better person. I like bands like Hillsong, Underoath and some acoustic guitar stuff.
WH: Do you have any hobbies?
Wes: Reading (I’ve got my own library) and spending lots of time in airports (sometimes days).
WH: Who are some of the guys you normally ride with and who do you rate as the best?
Wes: Brandon Herbst, Billybuster, Biggie, Matt Lammers, Martin Jekot (hehehe), and lots of beginners. They give me a lot of stoke when I ride, cause they are fresh and it’s new for them and it motivates me. In terms of strapped riding Matt Lammers is right up there. He’s sticking nuke whirly 7s, and dominates backhand and forehand. Eric Silverman is sick - big flips, strapless too. Robbie Whyte is just the style king. When it comes to strapless, Clayton Barker has the best forehand in the world. On a bodyboard Billy Tennant kills it prone, while Nick Nguyen is the best at drop knee and an all round nice guy. I reckon Max Sokolov is a future world champ, but probably my all time biggest influence is Tyrone Rawlins. I got most of my inspiration from him. He is the man.
WH: Tell us something interesting about yourself.
Wes: Um… I study Bible college. That normally gets me a couple peculiar looks. And my favourite colour is purple.
WH: What do you think the future holds for flowboarding?
Wes: Big, big things. I can see guys in the next 5 to 10 years making a career. I’ve spoken to many businessmen about the sport and they see lots of potential. Flowboarding is the ultimate spectator sport and has everything the public wants to see, so it offers so much to businesses wanting to advertise.
WH: What impact has flowboarding had on your life?
Wes: Huge bro! I’ve traveled to places I would have never gone too, and met some really rad people and ate some decent food! Being the world champ has opened a lot of doors for me too. I am enjoying riding so much and want to push the sport further moves-wise, and am looking forward to what Tom Loch is gonna create next.
WH: Tell us about the Run-In thing you guys started doing on the D-Rex. Who first started that and do you see it catching on around the world?
Wes: I was the first to do run-ins as far as I can remember. Basically you run down the pit with a bodyboard, and use the extra speed you generate running to boost huge airs. It’s a definite crowd pleaser! It just depends on if there is a straight stretch in the wave’s pit. You can’t really do them with waves that have a U-turn.
WH: Do you do any other sort of training aside from riding and surfing or follow any kind of special diet or lifestyle?
Wes: I ride every day for about three hours. Other than that I’m on the drink a lot of water diet right now. I also run occasionally but will start some intense training soon in preparation for Hawaii. I think it’s more important to be supple than fit, especially with new moves coming into the sport.
WH: Aside from winning the IFC, what were some of the other highlights of your trip to Singapore?
Wes: I had a lady with an Adam’s Apple say hello to me. I wasn’t very happy about that! I also got to meet Tom. I had met him briefly a couple years ago when he was in South Africa but this was the first time we got to hang out. He’s cool, man - really humble. He loves Wave House and is extremely passionate about it, which is awesome and gives me a lot of hope for the future.
WH: What is your favourite trick?
Wes: Strapless, I love the Corkscrew 360. I’ve stuck a couple but need to perfect it. Strapped, probably a whirly. I’m still getting into the strapped thing. And probably a forward air spin on the bodyboard. Right now I’m working on a strapless backflip and probably next year, backside rodeo’s strapless. That’s the direction I want to head with my flowboarding for sure.
WH: The flowboarders of the world are pretty isolated from each other because of the uniqueness of the sport and its fixed locations. What role do you see websites like wavehouse.com playing in the development of the sport, and what was it like getting together with flowboarders from different countries in Singapore?
Wes: Wavehouse.com is sick. It’s like our foundation for flowboarding and we keep in contact with all our new mates from Dubai, Chile, and the States through it. Meeting the guys from the States and Chile was awesome! I’m so keen to meet up with Juan from Chile again. We went to Indo after Singapore and it was cool hanging with him.
WH: What does it mean to flowboarding to have legends like Terje Haakenson, Kelly Slater and Tony Hawk attending events?
Wes: It’s crazy! I was watching TV in my room and then went downstairs and spoke to Terje who I had just seen on the tele. These guys are icons, man. They are huge and them coming to these events brings tons of spectators and grows flowboarding as a sport. For me it’s more about the growth of the sport… I have done heaps of reading about guys like Tony Hawk and Kelly Slater, and they became the icons they are because they loved what they did and just loved pushing their sport to greater heights. They just kept pushing it with new moves and look at them today.
WH: Shot for your time Wes. Looking forward to seeing what you have lined up next.
Wes: Sweet. Take it easy…