Editor’s Note: For the next year, SURFING will run a series of profiles based on a one-week stay with a featured surfer. The idea here is to not give you some sugar-coated, glam version of a well-known pro, but a real window into his world. One that equally documents the guts with the glory. We start with eccentric California charger Brian Conley.

“There’s a road that goes there, straight from our doorstep.”That’s how Brian’s sold me. The wave he simply calls “better than Puerto” is scheduled to fire and it is time, once again, to score. Greg Russ and Justin Smith--San Diegan underground big-wave chargers moved south (the epitome of Brian’s surfing dream) have sent the word.

Brian Wayne Conley, born to Don and Cindy in Lakewood, CA on March 1, 1980, has never stopped following his dreams. Cindy was the daughter of a cross-country trucker, which gives Brian good reason to claim his “trucker blood.” And Don, once a manager of a fast food restaurant, eventually became a successful Real Estate developer, enough so to move his family to one of the richest parts of San Diego: Rancho {{{Santa Fe}}}.

On the front door of the Conley Solana beach home (they moved there in 1990, in part for a certain surf rat son), there’s an image carved in glass: a skinny, longhaired surfer boy doing a frontside speed bank. It’s an image of Brian’s first published surf photo. He was 12. From there it was into a whirlwind of amateur contests, sponsorships, and the obvious goal to one day be the number one rated surfer in the world. But something happened along that road to competitive greatness. Somewhere along the way, he hit a detour with a sign reading, “The Zone.”


Pulling up to the home of Scott Conley, roof floodlights are blaring down upon a dark-green, monster {{{Ford F-250}}}. It’s late or early depending on your activity, around 1 a.m. on a warm August night. Scott, Brian’s older brother, is jamming on all cylinders, loading baby bro’s 9’2″ to the roof with one hand, pointing out where to stash supplies with the other. The swell is scheduled to hit sometime early Monday morning and we are totally committed. Brian’s planning possibly to shake it all the way down to lower Chile, which goes to show why he’s packing a huge assortment of fruits and nuts. Brian has followed a strict, raw foods vegan diet for the past three years.

In the garage, Brian makes last-minute adjustments to his customized, helmet- mounted video camera. Watching his bro work, Scott’s eyes beam pure admiration. He’s the one responsible for the super-truck, rigging a sponsorship with BFG for the monster tires, plus deals on everything from the suspension to the warm-water shower. There are tear-outs of Brian’s surf mag shots all over the garage walls. Scott seems excited as any of us. The brothers handle a solid hug, then it’s into the ship.

Curving onto the freeway, headed east towards Arizona, it’s just struck 2 a.m. and the adrenaline in me is intense. I’m starting to sweat. And I don’t think I’ve ever heard Santana played so loud or with such bass. Still, our crew is solid and ready for full documentation with Big Dog Russ Hennings, Adam “Biff-Tar” Desposito and filmer, Donaldson Miele. “Heading for the Zone!” Brian suddenly screams at the top of his lungs.


Before we know it, we’re in the middle of nowhere playing the Hoodoo-Gurus at 4 a.m. Yes. We are now within a full-throttle state of delirious amp.

Then comes the sun; a red giant coming over the Arizona farmland, over the unknown desert mountains, turning the fields into electric green and warming the steel-blue, floating sky. In the rearview mirror, Brian’s face is a perfect, simple smile.

It’s 9:30 and we’ve hit Nogales. This is a classic Mexican cowboy town, real rough 'n’ tough. The locals are tripping on us in our monster truck. “Nah, they’re just trippin’ on the 9’2″,” laughs BC, his fluffy dreads bouncing a bit with his chuckle. Down the road a bit we stop to grind some cocos. Brian signs a few sponsor/promo posters and gives ’em to the family running the stand.

For the complete profile of Brian Conley, pick up the March 05 issue of SURFING. On sale January 25th.Or, click HERE to subscribe!