Bryant Thomas / Team & Event Manager – Malibu Boats

(Reiley, there are four photos on FTP. None is great alone for an Inside piece, but I figure you could make a collage or grid of them to fit the top half of the page… If that won’t work for new layout and going full bleed with photos at top let me know. The water photo and playground photo both get “Garrison” credit)

How did you first get involved in towed watersports and ultimately Malibu?
BT: Growing up, I got into board sports in the early 2000s. I was really fortunate to grow up in east Tennessee where we have mountains and lakes – so skateboarding came first, then snowboarding and finally in 2007 my parents built a lake house. I figured it was a natural progression to wakeboard in the summer when I couldn’t snowboard. I read some of the mags and websites, and through the local Malibu dealer in Knoxville, found out that there was a clinic from this new brand called Ronix coming to town. I went out and Jason Mendes set up a board for me, then Danny Harf showed me how to get up. I went to the shop the next day and bought the original One setup, I’ve still got the money clip too…

After college my goal was to work in the boardsports industry so I could be involved in the activities I love. After a few years doing the terrain park and marketing stuff at Ober Gatlinburg ski hill I was was hired by Lani Farmer in early 2012 and joined the Malibu team. I was fortunate to work for her, a legend in the industry, for two years before she handed the torch over to me.

What’s a typical day at Malibu like for you?
BT: I know it’s cliché, but it’s true – there isn’t really a typical day. At Malibu we’re a small, tight-knit group so we all wear a few hats. Today I could be in sales and marketing plan development meetings, tomorrow I could be setting up shots with Sean Kilgus at the shoot, and the day after I could be flying somewhere for a Rider Experience event. It can seem overwhelming sometimes, but I really enjoy it.

Malibu and Axis represent two different approaches to the market, especially when you compare an M235 to an A20. What do you see as the future for wake boats going forward?
BT: This is definitely true, but they share a few common threads. The main common goal with every boat we build is to give the end user a great experience on the water and behind the boat. While the buyer for the M235 and the buyer for the A20 are different right now, the guy buying the A20 today will be the guy buying the M235 in a few years. It’s all about getting the Malibu/Axis brand affinity into people.

What’s your favorite project you’ve worked on at Malibu?
BT: Man, that’s a really hard question, but my favorite project is probably Rider Experience. Getting to see that event series grow over the years has been awesome. It’s always great to get in the field and work with our dealers to give people a unique experience behind the boat.

What do you look for when adding an athlete to either team?
BT: These days it takes a lot. Riders have to have the whole package, and by that I mean they have to be able to represent the brand fully through all means. Your board skills and what you can do with that are key, but now you have to be able to talk to a family whose kid has never gotten up behind the boat before, your social media has to be on point, and you still have to find time to ride (at home and in contests), and film. Obviously each rider is an individual, so there has to be give and take, but ultimately in 2016 you’ve got to be bringing it all on a high level.

These days you see kids that are really good on their board, but they can’t carry a conversation at all, or worse their parents speak for them. Can you tell me why I would sponsor you to represent our brand when you can’t talk about the product or about anything in general? It’s a larger symptom of the times we live in, but kids have to be pushed away from texting and Snapchat and have an actual conversation.

How much influence do riders have on boat design and features?
BT: I push for them to have as much influence as possible. Over the past four years or so our engineering team has gotten very close to the athletes and they’re able to dialog frequently about R&D. We try to get athletes to the factory as often as possible to get behind product while it was in development to get their input. The M235 was influenced by input from the team and it shows once you get behind it. It also helps that the engineering group are all users of the product and ride as well.

Related to the team, what’s the most memorable or jaw dropping phone call you’ve received to-date?
BT: I would say the most memorable calls would be Amber and Dallas when they called to say they were having babies. #teammom

How’s your Italian since signing Massi?
BT: Well considering I’ve been with my now wife, who is from Argentina, for 11 years and my Spanish is still terrible – my chances for Italian are even worse. I have learned that Massi loves Olive Garden, especially their bologna ravioli alfredo.