Feature Article: Austin People
by Shannon McCormick
Photographs by Jacob Bodkin
Austin’s surfing culture is just heating up. We introduce you to two who are riding the wave.
While most Ole Miss students were tailgating at The Grove, Alec Cameron was busy making his first surfboard. Growing up in Austin, surfing in the Texas Gulf and spending summers on the lakes here, Alec had been fascinated by the sport for a long time. He knew that custom-made boards were the best way to maximize the surfing experience, as they could respond to your specific body type, experience level and the style of surfing. It involved a lot of trial and error. “Board makers don’t really share their methods,” he laughs, in his resin-flecked and Styrofoam-dusted South Austin studio. “There’s a lot of trial and error. And I still learn something new with each board I make.”
By the time graduation rolled around, he had advanced his technique and opened Waterloo Surf Craft, hand-honing wakesurf boards, surf boards and the occasional standup paddleboard. That’s right, landlocked Austin, Texas, hundreds of miles from what might be thought of as typical surfing environs, is home to a custom surf board shop. You can be forgiven for not knowing about the burgeoning Austin surfing scene, although it makes intuitive sense. Austin has always been a city that’s been in love with outdoor activities, and with the recent opening of NLand Surf Park in Del Valle, expect to see more of your neighbors catching some waves.
That’s right, landlocked Austin, Texas, hundreds of miles from what might be thought of as typical surfing environs, is home to a custom surfboard shop.
“You start with a piece of styrofoam called a blank,” Cameron says, walking through the steps of crafting his boards. “How you shape the board really depends on how you want it to ride, what you’re looking for. Then once you’ve made your shape, it gets wrapped in fiberglass.” He gestures to bolts of fabric next to a board in progress on sawhorses. “It’s basically glass pulled out into thread form, into a cloth. Then when you wrap the board, you do what’s called glassing, which is applying Epoxy resin. That’s where you can get these different colors. That hardens it and give the board its structure.”
Several boards in various sizes and states of completion lean against the walls of the Waterloo studio. The floor is a swirl with splotches and splatters of thick color, like some abstract expressionist’s workspace, but instead of cranking out paintings, the end products are long, curved slabs capable of holding up bodies as they glide across waves and water.
“Sometimes we’ll end up getting orders from surf shops, maybe 10 or 20 at a time,” says Cameron about his shop’s output. “But we have a lot of custom orders, people call or email. We have people brand new to surfing and people who have been doing this for a long time and really know what they want.”
Fellow evangelists for the Waterloo Surf Craft brand include several riders who represent his apparel and boards in contests around the country. One of the most prominent locally is Morgan Lohmeier. An Arizonan whose family had spent some time in California before relocating to Austin, Lohmeier originally came to the sport via wakeboarding. “When we moved, my dad bought a house on Lake Austin seven years ago and got a boat. That’s sort of where it all started.”
In talking about the number of competitive surfers in Austin, Lohmeier laughs when she shares that she usually ends up third after the two top female surfers in Austin, Ashley Kidd and Raleigh Hager. “I made my way to Worlds in 2014 and I won Break Out Rider of the Year, but I wasn’t competing in pro at that time. As far as the pro division in Austin goes, it’s Ashley, Raleigh and me. I usually know it’s going to be between the two of them for first and second, and that’s fine with me. And then I go for fun and take my third place.”
And she does have fun on the waves, sometimes substituting street wear for the bikini. Her Instagram feed includes shots of Lohmeier in white, knee-high boots, a shift dress and giant white sunglasses—as if lifted from a scene of Mad Men—as she surfs. This past Halloween, she went Western on the waves. (Full disclosure, we asked her to dress up in the candy cane dress for this issue, and she gamely rocked it.)
Thinking about the future of the surfing scene in Austin, Lohmeier is optimistic. “With the surf park opening, [there’s] a whole new window of opportunity for people who are into watersports, especially surfing. I got a job there and teach people how to surf. For now. I am student at UT as well, so it’s a part-time thing and I hope to ride when I can. But with things like surf parks popping up, people can have longer careers and there are places for the sport to progress to that would have been unheard of ten years ago. You’re not reliant on the ocean.”
Through her partnership and collaboration with Waterloo, Lohmeier has her own signature wakeboard shape, called the Molo after the nickname her friends call her. “People like these custom shops like Waterloo because they [offer] much higher quality [boards]. For wake surfing, I like an aggressive shape that allows me to do big cutbacks and carves on the wake. It’s pretty typical for an ocean surf board shape, it’s just wider and better for behind the boat. It’s a little more aggressive than a beginner shape. I never put people on it who are just learning how to wake surf, but once you have the basics down, people seem to have a lot of fun on it.”
“There’s definitely a larger community here now, largely because of the wave park, but there’s been a good little surf niche community here for a while,” Waterloo’s Cameron muses about the way the local scene has changed, even in the handful of years he’s been in operation. With passionate and charismatic advocates like Cameron and Lohmeier, it’s hard to not think of the future of Austin surfing as a wave that will just keep peaking.
Read more from the People Issue | December 2016