Stab Magazine | The art of living high, with Alex Gray

The art of living high, with Alex Gray

Story by Ali Klinkenberg Sometimes you just feel like there’s something missing. The pro surfing world, on occasion, seems a bleak sphere for captivating characters, and shining in the brine doesn’t necessarily translate to shining on land. One man that’s an all round sunbeam is Alex Gray. But, what keeps the happy levels charged to […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Story by Ali Klinkenberg

Sometimes you just feel like there’s something missing. The pro surfing world, on occasion, seems a bleak sphere for captivating characters, and shining in the brine doesn’t necessarily translate to shining on land. One man that’s an all round sunbeam is Alex Gray. But, what keeps the happy levels charged to eleven, and feeds the need to chase swells to the four corners of the earth? We gots to know!

Stab: Every good swell, you’re there. How do you stay posi on the road with such a crazy schedule?
Alex Gray: (Laughs) I’m so addicted to the chase of surfing, it’s just the funnest thing in the world. Knowing that you can get some of the best waves of your life, I’m willing to do anything and drop everything for that little slice of hope at the end of the road. All the in-between stuff’s hard, not sleeping for a few days, trying to sleep on the floors of airports and aeroplanes. Then right when you land it’s just straight into it. For me, every time I get to the final destination, for the 24 hours that I’m there and the waves are pumping, I just forget about any tiredness or travel. It seems like the night after all the surfing my body just decompresses and I just start tripping.

Talk to me about the Cradle of Storms Alaska trip. That spot you scored was unbelievable… That trip’s one of the only ones I’ve been on that I signed on for months in advance. We weren’t chasing a swell, we were just going to an Island. It was halfway to Russia. It’s so far out there that the bears haven’t even got there yet! There’s only three people who live on the island, the only other people that go there are deer hunters. They’ve got the largest antlered deer in the world there. We showed up with surfboards and the hunters were like, “You’re going to die!” We saw them hauling in these huge, bloody antlers and thought, “maybe we are going to die!”

How long were you there? We stayed in a cabin for two weeks, and we only surfed four times. The slab wave was on 16th day out of 18. We didn’t know that it was there. We saw it the night before when it was onshore, but it was right on the reef, literally dry. I’ll never forget checking it the next day. We had to ride the ATV’s down a really bad track, I actually flipped my ATV the day before and almost broke my leg. But we rounded the corner and I saw this ruler-edged wave, it was in the afternoon so the sun was behind it, all backlit. I thought I was in Morning of the Earth, but covered in mud and freezing. This wave just spit its brains out, twice. I started screaming, but I was so far in front of my friends that the only people that heard me were the cows. They were all staring at me. I was just laughing, thinking “Is this even real right now?”

Were you the first one to paddle out? I was the guinea pig. On my first wave I stood in a perfect tube and realised that it was an incredible slab. It reminded me of Backdoor. I surfed for five hours, my two friends (Pete Devries and Josh Mulcoy) surfed for an hour, but it was so cold, and the wave was pretty dry, so they got over it and went in. They also went in because there was a big storm. It hailed huge chunks of ice on us. The whole sky was black. I was about to head in, then I got this wave and kicked out. The one behind it literally spit on me in the channel. I said to myself, “There’s no way I’m going in. I’m going to surf until my body completely fails and shuts down, I’m gunna see how far I can take this. I’ll just get hypothermia, screw it.” That’s what I live for, and who knows if I’ll ever get chance to do this again.

Local headwear in huge tubes, what’s the story there? It’s so fun. There comes a point when you’ve been getting perfect waves for two days where you’re like, “It’s time to add some local flavour.” I was walking down the road in Mexico, we had one more day of surfing. I saw a shop and thought, “Man, I should get a sombrero.” And then there was a guy cooking corn so we got that in the barrel too.

You can see the airwaves rippling through your sombrero in the barrel. With the GoPro stuff you have no idea how it’s going to turn out. That wave spat my sombrero off and then it came back on. Literally an hour later we were on the plane and I was watching the footage, just dying with laughter. We scored 10 to 15-foot barrels for two days straight, I literally had 60 barrels in two days, and that sombrero wave was the best one I caught the whole time. I couldn’t care less about the other 60, I was just so pumped on the sombrero.

You went to Canada with Timmy Reyes, no Davey Crocket headgear? Oh, the waves were too gnarly (giggles). We were trying to go right on this left slab. I got the Go Pro out for one wave, but then a shark came and chased us out. I was driving and Timmy was on the rope, just screaming at me. I thought there was a set coming so I did a donut around, and he just starts climbing up the rope! “Shark, Shark!” He jumped up on the ski and I started laughing. We were the only ones there, a mile out to sea. I said, “there’s no shark, it’s just kelp, look.” And then the kelp started coming right at us, “OMG it is a shark!” 

Talk to me about Dave Wassel. Are you two destined to be surfing’s greatest double act? Oh my god, Dave Wassel. He’s the world’s number one lifeguard. That Instagram he out up, him in full Baywatch get up… I met Wassel when I was 15 at the Volcom house at Pipeline. He let me tag along with him at Pipeline and Backdoor, and took me out the the outer reefs. We were just surf buddies in the beginning, but now he’s one of my best friends. We go bow hunting together. He’s definitely one of my favourite people to travel with. If there’s ever a swell then I always hit him up and ask him to go, purely for the fun factor.

What’s next? I’m working with Jose Cuervo, the tequila company. The shaper Gary Linden’s shaped me a 9’8” that’s made entirely of agave, which is the plant that they make tequila from. We’re going to chase a swell to Todos and try and ride it. We’re doing a webisode series for them. We went down to Mexico and went to the tequila factory and helped them dig up the plants, and then it’s coming full circle with Gary shaping me this board. Now I’m going to go and try and ride some big waves on it!


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