David Malcolm and Dylan Graves are patrons of the weird. Photo: Sam Moody
On The Supreme Dedication At The Most Unlikely Surf Spots
A conversation with Dylan Graves and filmmaker David Malcolm at a bowling alley about "Weird Waves"
In Oceanside, there’s a bowling alley. It’s rundown in a charming sort of way. The neon lights over the entrance shine brightly: BOWL.
SURF sits before BOWL, but SURF doesn’t shine. Presumably, it once did.
Here, we meet Dylan Graves and David Malcolm, the brain and brawn behind Vans’ series “Weird Waves” – a series you’ve likely seen on this site, dropping on a weekly basis in episodic fashion. They came along with their girlfriends. We exchanged greetings, “Hi, I’m Liz,” says Dave’s lady.
“Hi, I’m Batman” says Dylan’s.
“Right on. Nice to meet you, Batman.”
The episodes of Vans' “Weird Waves” are long for millennial standards, the lengthiest being just short of 16-minutes. Although at first the play time is daunting, each episode has been anything but taxing. Like you, we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the series, with Dylan and company jumping mustache first into some very unlikely surf scenes.
The goal behind the series: To stray briefly from performance and highlight an aspect of surf culture that we’ve lost in the ocean. To show, as cliched as it sounds, that The Stoke is all around us.
And yet, like at any surf locale, localism thrives. Out of the five stops in this series – The Great Lakes, Montana/Idaho, Oregon, The United Kingdom, and Germany—Dylan claims The Eisbach in Germany, the Great Lakes, and the Severn Bore in the UK possess the heartiest locals.
Now that the season is feather dusted, we commence a breezy discussion with Dylan and David about the series, what’s next, and who they are.
(This interview took place between a few banged pins, and a couple pitchers of beer…)
"I do that for the first couple rolls because I know I’m going to bowl like shit anyway."
Stab: Dylan, you grew up in Puerto Rico, right? Were you born there?
Dylan: I was born in Florida and my parents moved down to Puerto Rico when I was about a year and a half old. They wanted to surf and wanted to live where the surf was good. They thought, "our kids will probably surf." So they got jobs as reps down on the island as it was just starting to have a surf scene in the ’80s. They were like, "yeah we’ll be surf shop reps," and they just decided to raise their kids and make them learn Spanish. [Laughs]
I moved out here [California] when I was 23, I got an apartment with Nolan Hall, Vans surf team manager. It was nice to have a spot in California. I did the back 'n forth thing for a while. I ended up moving back for a few years when I was 26, I lived there for three years and we just moved back here about two years ago. I’ve been stationed in San Clemente.
How’s Puerto Rico doing after the hurricane? Is it coming together or still pretty devastated?
Dylan: It’s taken a while to recover, but it’s on its way back. There were more tourists than I’d ever seen last time I was there (two days prior to this interview). I was tripping. My mom and brother have Airbnbs that they rent out, and they were saying the last two months have been the busiest they can remember. Which is great, tourism is a huge part of the local economy over there.
"Even though the wave is like knee high, it’s kind of sketchy. There are zones that are so shallow with logs and tweed and rocks." - David Malcolm
I have to say, I’ve been really enjoying the new Weird Waves series. At first, when I saw the runtime, I was a little skeptical that it would keep me intrigued for the full episode.
Dylan: Yeah, we were trying our best to cut it down. Originally, each episode was meant to be five to eight minutes, but we couldn’t get it down. Each episode has so many characters and moments that it was hard to pick and choose what should remain.
David: We were worried about that. Our original rough cuts have been pretty lengthy, but after showing it to a few friends, they seemed engaged.
Dylan: We were tripping on that [laughs]. We didn’t know if it was just us tripping though. So we bounced every episode off them: [points to girls sitting around two pitchers of beer—beer that I was explicitly told by the Surf Bowl security I could not drink, due to not having my ID on me, and after showing a photo of said ID on my cell phone by not one but two very stern Surf Bowl employees, who were just not having it.]
David: They’re the most ruthless critics. They’ll rip you apart and chew you up. By the end of the series, they were so sick of it.
Batman: I think my critique was the best. We keep you guys in check.
(Dylan gets up to bowl, beer in hand)
The careful beverage-in-hand method is pretty good. Very Lebowski.
Dylan: Well, I do that for the first couple rolls, because I know I’m going to bowl like shit anyway.
"I think they’re more die-hard than any ocean surfer I’ve met." - Dylan Graves.
Out of all the trips, what were your favorites?
Dylan: I think our favorite was England. England and Germany.
David: England [Severn Bore] was the most redeeming, as far as the unknown goes. We went into that the most blind. It was logistically so hard to get three waves, because only one wave breaks a day. We were there for three days and you get one tide swing that makes the wave during the day, that’s your only shot at it.
There are two waves every 24 hours. There’s one in the day and one at night. Some of the local guys ride it at night, with like headlamps and stuff.
Even though the wave is like knee high, it’s kind of sketchy. There are zones that are so shallow, with logs and weeds and rocks. The logistics of it were so difficult. Since it’s one wave that breaks for miles, you have to chase it. It was hectic. The whole planning before was like, first you have to go here. Then you go set up with the drone here. Then we’re going to get out of the water here and drive to meet it over here. That chase scene was legit, it wasn’t fudged at all, we barely caught up to that thing. [Laughs]
Dylan: I’ve surfed standing river waves, but never a tidal bore like that. It was something completely fresh. From day one I was intrigued about what it was, like what was this world we just got ourselves into? And the guys were just these good ol' English boys, just pure souls.
The crews in each scene seem so much more psyched than your average coastal surfer.
Dylan: The guys in England, the guys in the Great Lakes, and the Munich surfers—I think they’re more die-hard than any ocean surfer I’ve met. They're so much more into it. It’s Commitment on steroids.
Mr. Graves locked the Great Lake's water cooler.
That Burton dude from the Great Lakes seemed like quite the character.
Dylan: He’s genuine. He’s like puppy level one million. I’ve never met someone so, umm... Stoked. [Laughs]
Batman: Before they went to the Great Lakes, he would call every hour, just shouting, “Duuuuuude!” It’d be Sunday night and he’d be calling nonstop.
Did you guys get vibed out at all, or was everyone pretty inviting?
David: Surprisingly the Severn Bore guys were the vibiest at first. They were like, Who the fuck are you guys and what are you doing here with all this camera equipment? It took a while for them to warm up. I had to go smooth things over with some of the locals. We had to do that there, and at the Great Lakes.
Dylan: Yeah, some of the boys weren’t really feeling us.
David: I had to level with them and tell them we appreciate what they have there, and we weren’t trying to blow out the spots. We just wanted to celebrate their culture. We were rolling a little high profile—it was me, Dylan, Jimmy Wilson plus another camera guy. Then, Burton was there and one of his photographers wanted to tag along. So we were definitely unloading a fair few people onto the spot.
Moments before a man wearing a Surf Bowl uniform told us we were not allowed to sit in front of the lanes.
So why weird waves?
David: We did a season before, that was a smaller production and the idea was pretty loose. It was like, let’s get Wade Goodale and Droid and Dylan and go shred somewhere—like do acid drops and stuff. It was fun, but it had a pretty low ceiling.
Then we had this "aha" moment, where we wanted to go places that weren’t on the coast and make it about the people in the surf scenes and the area itself. We didn’t want it to be about shredding. We took the high performance factor out of the equation.
Is there going to be a season two?
David: Yeah, we’re scheduling out a second season. The main thing is trying to figure out how to move on. We don’t want season two to be just alright. We’re not gonna try and max the budget and show it off, but we want to be able to have something you can learn from each of the locations.
Dylan: It’s such a refreshing thing seeing each spot’s local surf scene. The guys are so core about it.
Revisit "Weird Waves" Episodes one through five below: