The Surfersvillage Interview
Everyday big-wave surfer proud to help people
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 16 April, 2016 - Alex Gray is known not only for his big-wave pursuits, but also for couple dozen harrowing wipeouts. He’s definitely in the top ten list of surfers-who-consistently-bounce-off-shallow-reefs and is even skilled enough to have lost a life vest, find it, then reattach it – all during a hold down at Teahupo’o. The man even quips that wipeouts are the best thing in surfing.
How would you describe what you do for work to a small, inattentive child?
I would tell the child that I'm living my childhood dream. What makes me happiest is that I found it at such a young age (started surfing at 10).
What is that you do professionally that you are most proud of?
I'm most proud of being comfortable just being me without cares of judgements or labels. I have been so lucky to have been influenced by family, friends, and mentors. But at the end of the day, what gives us the ability to inspire is the simplicity of just being. I've found that to be the hardest thing in life. And yet it's so simple haha.
What are you currently working on that you’d like to share with us?
I'm currently advocating a skatepark in my local community. There's nothing that I want more than for the future generation to have a healthy place to create, be free, and create dreams. I also have a non-profit in the works but that is top secret ;)
I just watched your Pacific Northwest slab clip “Luckless Pedestrian” and it occurred to me that you’re probably in the top ten list of “surfers who consistently bounce off shallow reefs.” What’s been your worst injury?
Haha well you gotta pay to play. I think wipeouts are the best thing in surfing, so humbling and funny all at the same time. I think my worst wipeout was at Chopes during the code red swell. My wave closed out while I was in the barrel. Underwater one of my two life vests came off, and ripped off my body. I was lucky and just got ahold of it and was under long enough to put it back on, zip it up, and buckle three buckles. It was one of the best waves of my life. I love closeouts!
Alex goes tropical © Brent Bielmann
What’s the worst thing about chasing big waves all over the globe?
The worst thing about chasing waves all over the world is that I can't be two places at once! I'm so addicted to dropping everything last minute and checking the waves from the channel rather than staying home wondering if it was good. FOMO! For me, surfing is the greatest sport and lifestyle in the world. There's still perfect surf out there with no one around, you just have to search a little further and sacrifice a little more.
What’s the best thing about chasing big waves all over the globe?
Everything about chasing waves is the best. But if I had to pinpoint one moment it's everything that leads up to the actual ride. It basically goes like this: watch the storm model from ten days out, buy a very expensive last minute-within-24-hours-of-the-swell ticket if possible (guarantees conditions being true). Then travel, sometimes up to three days, and get there at 4 am, sleep for two hours, then throw yourself into waves that belong on National Geographic.
At home © Body Glove/Todd Glaser
Share with us your biggest Rocky Balboa moment (punching frozen meat and then running up the stairs of the Capitol, music blaring).
I was invited to the 2014 Dive’n’Surf Oregon Pro. It was my first Big Wave World Tour Contest. In order to qualify for the tour the next year I had to place 6th in the final. I ended up winning the contest with a 10.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? Selling shoes?
If I wasn't surfing I'd be playing badminton in Ding Dang. No, I'd be starting my own non-profit that benefited, hopefully, one person. Because think about it, you save one life during your own lifetime and you've succeeded at life.
Alex Gray's tube form © Body Glove/Todd Glaser
OK, you get to drop into any five moments in history – surf or otherwise. Please name them and why.
Number 1: The contest at Hermosa Beach Pier in 1998 that my brother Chris gray and I won in our divisions. My brother gave me everything in life. I'd give anything for one more surf session with him (He passed away of a drug overdose on 2004).
Number 2: A surf session with jimmy miller at a secret spot in Northern California. Jimmy introduced surfing to my family. He was one of my best friends. During the session we both took off on a closeout and pulled into the barrel headed straight at each other. I was scared shitless and he was just smiling. When I came up he was laughing and congratulated me on being in the tube.
Number 3: A surf with my mom and dad. My dad is a retired superior court judge of 22 years. My mom is a retired speech pathologist for 3 and 4 year olds after 30 years teaching. Safe to say the weren't surfers ;) but they supported everything my brother and I did. I'm very lucky to continually feel love and support from them no matter what. They both started surfing in their early 40's when my brother and I did.
Number 4: Hanging out with all of my grandparents that have passed. The love of a grandparent is so special. I miss them all!
Number 5: A session with whoever is reading this. Get out there and get busy living!