We caught up with Pro Wakesurfer Connor Burns when he was at home in Arizona this past winter.
Hello! You have Bryce on the Wakesurf Podcast. I’m joined today by the one and only Connor Burns.
You have an impressive list of surfing accomplishments, man. In 2016 you’re riding amateur. You had a completely undefeated season and won the World Championships. Then, you actually skipped straight to pro after that in 2017.
I think the craziest part… So, when I first started, I started back in 2015, we bought a knot teak, just because I liked the sport so much. So, we end up getting a knot teak. I just did it every day, like during the summertime and all that stuff. I loved it so much. I went to a competition in Arizona. I didn’t enter or anything, but I went to the competition. I was like, “Dang! I could compete with these people.” I was like, “Why not?” Because I was too scared to enter in it. I ended up meeting Mike and Angie there. They’re the people that totally got me involved in the wake surfing stuff. I ended up doing lessons with them. They were like, “Oh, you’re totally good to compete.” And so, I ended up doing that first competition. It was in Parker, I think. It was like a bronze event. And so, I actually won that event. I was totally hyped about that because it was my first competition and I won that. And then so from there, I was just going to every competition in that 2016 year, and ended up winning all of them. That was back when in amateur you could just do a 360 and you’re pretty much good or maybe 720 and then easy win. But now, you have to be doing like air 180s, 360s, and all that kind of stuff. Yeah, so that’s what got me started. So yeah, I went undefeated amateur then I won the World Championships as an amateur.
That year, Mike and Angie talked to me. They were like, “So you can either go out law or you can go straight to pro.” I was like, “I don’t know. What do you guys think?” And they’re like, “You just go to pro.” And so, I ended up doing decent that year. You got good. I got fourth year rolls. I definitely improved like crazy that year. That one year, I went from outlaw level riding to pro level riding. It was crazy how just fast I progressed somehow. But just training. I did a lot of training with my coaches. I was surfing hour and a half every day. But yeah, that’s kind of what got me motivated. I think just seeing that check. And that’s my goal from the start. I just wanted to hold up the big check. I don’t care how much it is. I just want them to give me a big check. I always cared about the cheque.
That’s awesome. Yeah. In 2018, you’re off to the races. You won that year.
Yeah, I remember 2018. It was a toss up. If I was up against Keenan, I would most likely count on losing because I only beat Keenan that towards the end of that year. I beat him one time before Worlds and then at Worlds. I remember it was me always up against Jake Breedlove and Aaron Witherell. I think Chris Wolter even. When those guys were there, I was like, “Oh.” I was sweating. I was so nervous. I was like, “Holy crap. I don’t want to be here.” Because I remember there’s some concerts like six of the best guys. And I was like, “Oh, I don’t even want to be here because this is so much stress.”
You are doing okay because you repeat it in 2019 too, man.
Yeah. Yeah, no. 2019 was my best year for sure. That was a fun year definitely. That’s when everything was open and we’re all travelling. I hit as many comps as I could. I’m feeling good. And then, won that year again, I think. Right? Yeah. Yeah.
You won 2019. And then, this last year, you took second.
Yeah, I did. That hurt me a little bit. That one definitely hurt me. I don’t know. I had one of my best runs. I know Kenan had a really good run. It’s just one of those things that it’s just a toss up in like, I don’t know. It’s just all the judge’s preference, because I know Kenan came up to me. He was like, “Dude, you have it.” I was like, “Oh, really? Thanks, man.” He was making me feel good. Everyone was saying, “Oh, you have it for sure.” So, I was sold that I had it, you know? The podiums happen. And then they said, I was second. I was like, “Oh, that hurt.” That hurt more than anything in sports or anything I’ve ever done. That was my moment that I was just hurting. I don’t know. I needed that. That was good for me. I think it grounds you a little bit, you know.
Let’s be honest. If you’re going to lose to anyone and I use the term lose loosely. Keenan is not a bad guy to have standing above you.
Yeah, no kidding. No, that’s for sure. Yeah. There are some good guys coming up actually. I know Chad Carlson. That kid is landing 540 big spins. I remember when I was the only one hitting those 540 big spins. And that was only for a brief period of time. I probably had that for three months and I was like, boom, that was my signature trick. And then now other random people are starting to do it. Outlaw riders are laying that trick down now. It’s like, “Oh!” It’s crazy. I don’t know. I’m happy that I’m the only guy that lands 540 big spins riding my surfboard. So, what can I say? It must be the board.
It’s got to be the board, man. Speaking of boards, what are your biggest sponsors? Kanuk Board Co? You got your signature Burnsy model? Tell us a bit about that. It wasn’t a board that just got your name stamped on it. You’re involved in the process from day one. I know I got some boards underneath your feet to start with.
Yeah. When I first started with you guys there with Kanuk. I think this was back in 2016 Worlds, or maybe 2017 Worlds. I don’t know. But it was when we were in Canada for Worlds.
2017 was my first year Pro. Yeah. I remember I was talking to you guys. I stopped riding for Soulcraft. I used to ride for Soulcraft. I remember they brought some boards for me to try. Kanuk did. I checked them out. I was like, “They looked pretty cool.” And then I tried them. I was like, “Oof, I don’t know.” It made me kind of nervous at first because it just wasn’t my style of board. I remember Paul at the time, he was making our boards and he was like, “Dude, anything you want, let’s get it made.” I was like, “All right, man. Let’s try it. I had this idea in my head. I like the symmetrical shape. Actually, I have the boards right here. This is the new one. This is the 2021 Burnsy Pro.
It’s a beauty, buddy.
Dude, it’s so cool. I like the symmetrical shape of it. I just feel it rides revert better and the 360s are easy. I had all these ideas in my mind on what I wanted and how I wanted it to ride. The first prototype was like, “Okay. I can ride this.” It’s like, “All right. Let’s make a few more tweaks.” And literally after the third prototype, which normally takes six to even more prototypes to get it dialled in, after the third one, I was like, Oh, this is starting to go somewhere. This is good. And so that’s kind of where it all started. I was so stoked on being able to have my own pro model. I just love the shape and so ever since then, they gave me a good contract. The board kind of blew up. Everyone just wanted this board all of a sudden. Then recently, the past two or three years, it’s been Kanuk’s number one selling board. That’s been really exciting. People love it. Nothing but good reviews about it. It’s been a good run with Kanuk.
It’s awesome. I got one of them in my quiver. I can’t keep it ever. As soon as I get one I’m like, “Ah, sweet.” And… it’s instantly sold. Somebody’s like, “I want this board.” I’m like, “Arghh.” I don’t really want to… It’s gone. As soon as I get one, gone.
Kanuk let me order a hundred of them. They couldn’t even make enough of these boards. I always had people wanting them and I’m like, “All right. What if we just place an order. How can I just place an order with you guys like a hundred and I can just have them all year long and I can just sell them.” They said “Sure.” That’s another cool thing about Kanuk. They’re so chill. They are really supporting their athletes. I don’t know. They’re a great company. So, yeah. They definitely hooked me up. Every time I do lessons, it’s like 90% of the time I also sell a board with the lessons. People just ride the board and they love it. Even the beginner riders’ man. The beginners are just loving it because they love how loose it is and all that stuff. And then, you get the outlaw guys that are throwing the 540 big spins on this board now. It’s ridiculous. I mean, I love it. I’m so proud of it. It’s come a long way. People that ride it are just killing it.
That’s really awesome to hear, man. What else? You ride for Centurion Boats, one of your sponsors. What boat are you rocking right now?
I got the Centurion RI 245. It’s been the best boat I’ve had. I probably had like six boats. I’ve had the 2016 Natique G23, 2017-18. I want to say I have the 19 for a little bit as well. And then, that’s the same year I got the… Oh yeah, I had the 19. I got a 2020 Centurion Ri 237. I had two of those. I had the supreme ZS 232. And now, I have the Centurion Ri 245. I just have a guy that messaged me that wants to buy it so that might be sold. Only problem is now I’m going to be boatless for a little bit. Boats are always for sale. So, whatever. I’m loving this Centurion Ri 245 right now. The waves killer. The tech is so much more up to date on that boat. Centurion is great.
I really like the idea that you might be standing on the corner of the dock with your thumb out trying to bum rides off people. “Hey, can I come?”
I might have to exchange the surf lessons for some ride time down here. I don’t know. Let’s see.
That’s pretty awesome, man. Last year had been pretty crazy with travel. For a guy like you you’re always somewhere every week. I guess you got in a few places last year.
Yeah. Let’s see. There was the Minnesota ones. Well, Minnesota competition. I don’t know. The competitions that I’ve been to last year, I know a lot of it was online, which I’d rather be in person. But again, it’s better than nothing because we don’t have to travel and we still get paid and stuff like that. So, that’s always a plus. But where did I go to? Minnesota and there’s one other one that I don’t remember that I went to. They totally felt like normal competitions and even Worlds. Everything seemed completely normal there and it was nice to get back in the swing of things. So, I hope they do that again this year. But who knows? I don’t really know what they’re planning or anything.
I had a conversation with John the other day, the president of the CWSA. We were talking about that module system. The video thing, I think it went really well. It was super well received. I think for guys like us, we’re always travelling, but it’s really hard for a lot of people depending on where you live. If you live in Russia or if you live in Ukraine or you’re in Dubai or wherever… It’s pretty hard for those type of people to get to an event, and there’s just not that many. So, the more people they get involved, the better it is.
No, that is a good point. I guess that would be kind of difficult to get them more involved… but I mean, there’s plenty of people in the US that would love to go so maybe we can just do US competitions. They can do their Russia competitions.
I think that’s the plan. I think they’re going to do just whatever they can wherever they can.
The only thing that would kind of affect that is Worlds because they would kind of feel excluded from Worlds. I guess they’re trying to make it like a worldwide thing. I could see how that would kind of affect them maybe.
I can’t quote that directly but I think they’re going to do something very similar moving forward, I think for this year. I don’t think everything’s going to kind of open back up. Hopefully next year, we can get back to normal.
It will be good to have in Worlds in Texas. It seems like they’re completely back to normal now.
Texas just opened up everything.
I’d probably be moving down to Texas.
Do you have travel plans coming up?
As far as wake surfing goes, not yet. No. I really want to go to Hong Kong or Japan to do some lessons down there. I got friends down there helping them out and stuff. That’s always fun. But as far as wake surfing goes, not really. I mean, I hope so. Coming up. I don’t really follow along with the CWSA stuff. I really should but I’m kind of waiting for that email to pop up saying there’s an event coming up. So, that’s how I kind of go by.
You’re like, “I got to be there? Okay, I’ll show up.”
So, have you been riding all winter? How’s the offseason?
It’s been bad this year. I’ve been very unmotivated. It’s too cold here. It’s too wet. I don’t know… I’ve probably been going out once a week if that. I think when it starts to warm up here, I’ll start going out a little bit more but I’ve been working out a lot. I’ve been working out like every day, sometimes two times a day. So, that’s been good. And then, I’ll kind of just wake surf here and there just to make sure I maintain my skill. So, I don’t know. I feel like when it warms up a little bit, I’ll just be hammering the lake. That’s my new training method this year, I think.
Shorten the season a little bit so you don’t get burnt out?
Yeah. Exactly. Just working on my personal strength and stuff like that, I think. So. Yeah. We’ll see how that works out.
I have a good feeling about it.
So, you got no new tricks over this winner? Or do you have something super top secret that you’re thinking about?
I wish I did. Oh, let me think… I don’t know? Like I said that’s been the biggest thing for me is making sure I don’t get burnt out and making sure I just maintain everything. I have been getting into skim though. That’s been kind of a new thing for me because I figured if I’m going to be at these comps, why not just enter in skim? It doesn’t hurt anything. If I get third here and there, like boom, bonus, so that’s new. I’m going to try that.
That’s going to be awesome.
I’ve been training with that a lot. Instead of learning new tricks on the surf I’ve been practising skim more.
Nice. What does daily life look like? You working out every day? Are you working? Did you actually get a real person job or are you just…
What I do is I manage a bunch of Airbnb’s. I manage about five or six Airbnb’s. I actually own an Airbnb as well here in Arizona, like 10 minutes away from here. Actually in other exciting news. I’m building a house.
Yeah. It’s actually right over there by my parents’ house.[Points behind him] It’s right down the street. I’m super stoked about that. That should be done here in the next seven months or so. I’ve been saving up for that. What else? I also work for my parents’ landscape company. I do all their sales stuff and marketing… stuff like that. What else do I do? I sell my surfboards. Dude, I basically just do it all and try to cram it into my day. Got to make some money here and there.
That’s awesome. Back when we used to actually be able to go places… do you have anything that sticks out maybe like a best tournament or best place you’ve ever got to wake surf?
Best tournament. I don’t know. I have some really good memories from the Japan competition. What else? I don’t know. They’re all so fun. Man, I wish we can go back to how we used to be with all of our friends hanging out. I know the Arizona ones are always fun too just because all our buddies just hang out at the house and stuff. Let’s see. Favourite place that I’ve wake surf is probably France just because it was so wild there and different. But the coolest place was Hong Kong. That was the coolest place I’ve been. Just surfing out in the middle of the ocean with all the yachts around us. That is so cool.
That’s awesome. Couple more years maybe you’ll have a yacht in Hong Kong. You never know.
You never know. If I hit the lotto maybe. That’d be kind of cool.
I keep trying to win that like every week.
You can’t win if you don’t play.
It’s true. People ask what’s my retirement plan? I’m fully banking on the lotto… Life won’t really change for me. It will just be the same. Maybe upgrade the bus. I’m in the bus as you can see right now. You know, maybe just afford more fuel for the bus.
Drive that bus down to Arizona. What have you been doing this winter?
Normally, I live across the street from you [In AZ]. Like, right where your new house is going to be… Dude, I had to buy socks. I didn’t even own socks. Now I have a couple pairs. I kind of tried to be Canadian. I got a couple snowboarding seasons passes to a few different mountains. So, I’ve gone snowboarding a few times. And then actually, I really got into snowmobiling with a bunch of friends. They told me, “don’t waste your time snowboarding. Just come snowmobiling.” So, I got one of those. They weren’t wrong. It’s pretty rad.
So, you’re living off the grid.
Pretty much man. Pretty much. Who knows? Hopefully I’ll be down soon. I don’t if I can make it down this spring. We can’t drive across the Canadian US border.
Oh, that’s right. You have to fly.
Yeah. I have the bus and the boat, that needs to get down there… It just didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I thought for one year I’ll be like, “Hey, I’ll stay at home. Try and remember what it’s like to be Canadian again and do all the winter stuff.” The only thing I like about winter now is snowmobiling. My new plan for the winter…. Can you believe I have a plan? My new plan is going to be Arizona, fly home for a month, snowmobile every day. And then, fly back down to Arizona. And then come home for summer because… Well, you’ve been up where we are in the summer a bunch. It’s a pretty hard place to beat.
Yeah, For sure. That’s the plan for the next bit. Who knows? I’m sure I’ll see you sooner or later.
We have a whole bunch of quarantine rules with Canada and stuff. If I go, when I come back, I have to quarantine for two weeks.
I know dude. I wanted to come up to Canada to see Lily and all them and go snowboarding and stuff but it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense if you had to quarantine and all that stuff.
You’re going to be in a hotel room for two weeks by yourself before you can go see anyone. Yeah. So anything you go and do, add two weeks to it coming back home. So, it’s like, argh. I’ll just stick here.
Awesome, man. Well, dude, it’s been a treat. It’s been awesome catching up with you, dude.
Let’s do this again sometime.