When Alex Gray walks in to your office, it’s a good day. With a smile the size of Mexico and contagious energy oozing from every pore, he’s good company to have. The fun, dynamic guy you see in the videos is the real deal. As a professional surfer, Alex’s career is exploding right now. His recent win at the Dive n Surf Oregon pro placed him securely on to the Big Wave World Tour roster; a line-up of the world’s top big wave surfers who take on breaks the likes of Jaws and Dungeons. Always in motion, the Southern Californian native leaves on a moment’s notice in search of bigger, better and emptier waves. He’s no stranger to ripping up smaller waves with technical finesse either, and you just need to watch any of his video clips to see how much fun he has in the water, no matter what the conditions. But where Alex really stands apart from the sun and salt drenched crowd is as a human being. There is just something unique about him, much more than the eye can see or the camera can catch…When you read his Facebook posts you start to feel like he’s someone you’ve known for a long time, while his honesty, gratitude, humor and enthusiasm force you to take a moment out of your day and think about life. Alex brings so much more than world-class surfing to the table. His desire to “help, inspire, and influence as much as possible” is obvious in everything he does, and whether he is dropping in on some of the world’s most terrifying waves, teaching disadvantaged kids to surf or starring alongside Kelly Slater in movies, one thing is certain: Alex Gray and his passion for life are here for the long haul.
Photo: Todd Glaser
MIZU: Your career seems to have skyrocketed over the last year! What happened? ALEX: I've been eating my Wheaties, haha! No,I'm just lucky to have great sponsors who give me the freedom to travel the world doing what I love most.
MIZU: You are one of just a few surfers across the globe singled out to be on the 2014/15 Big Wave World Tour. Was that always in your sights or did things just turn out that way? ALEX: I've always respected the BWWT and the surfers associated with it. Big wave surfing has been long overdue for the recognition it deserves. I believe it has never been in a better place, especially with the ASP taking it over. I entered my first ever BWWT event in March, the Dive N' Surf Oregon Pro, with no rating or stats. Winning the event propelled me to 6th overall and a spot on this year’s BWWT. I am ecstatic and can’t wait for events like Jaws, Todos, Dungeons....
Photo: Tom Carey
MIZU: Does it ever get tough having to up and leave on a moment’s notice to chase wherever the waves may be? ALEX: For me, that's the easiest decision in the world. I probably travel more than any other surfer on this planet. The answer is simple: I love surfing. I realize how fortunate of a situation I am in, and can't get enough of seeking out the world's biggest and best waves. Sure there's times on the road when shit hits the fan, but that's life and the hardest times always seem to be the most memorable :)
MIZU: You just got back from your first ever trip to Indo. It’s a standard destination for most surfers; why did it take you so long to get there? ALEX: Indo sure is the most consistent place for waves in the world. I find it to be a bit too crowded these days. After surfing places like Alaska with no one around, I am inspired to continue that search of solitude surfing. However, I couldn't turn down an invite to Indo from one of my favorite surfers, Mikala Jones. He gets more barrels and remote locations than anyone. Sure enough we scored crazy waves with no one out. Thanks Mikala! I think the soul of searching for waves is still there, it's just a little harder to find and takes more effort these days.
Photo: Todd Glaser
MIZU: You said your recent surf trip to Alaska in 42 degree water and 50 knot winds was the best of your life. So we have to ask…Your last ever surf: Alaska or Hawaii? ALEX: Well, Alaska was the best trip of my life. I'm not quite too sure how to beat it now, but am working on it hahaha! But for a last surf I am going to have to say Hawaii. Hawaii means more to me than anywhere. I was told at a very young age that Hawaii makes or breaks or as a surfer. And it's true. Coming from California as a skinny blonde hair kid trying to tackle Hawaii is no easy task. Hawaii still retains the heaviest/scariest surfing waters in the world. I love the culture, people, and especially the waves. It's been so great having Volcom as a sponsor and working my way into the Gerry Lopez house at Pipeline.
MIZU: Your enthusiasm for life and passion for what you do is evident in everything you do. Are you really having that much fun? ALEX: Through the trials and tribulations of life, I feel there is nothing more to do than enjoy every second. Life is short. I am living my dream and couldn't be any happier.
MIZU: Your family feature heavily in your online posts and you clearly have a lot of love and respect for them. How instrumental were they in you becoming a pro-surfer? ALEX: My family is the backbone of my life and career. Without my family's support I would never have made it as a professional surfer. Losing my brother Chris was and still is the hardest thing I deal with. But I do my best every day to honor his life with my surfing and continuing his memory and name.
Photo: Tom Carey
MIZU: We saw (on Instagram) the letter you wrote in middle school listing your life goals at that time, and number 2 on the list was to become a pro-surfer and be in a surf movie, yet you’d only been surfing a year at that point. Did you really imagine it happening when you wrote the letter? ALEX: I think I also said Arnold Schwarzenegger was my favorite actor too hahaha! I love kids.That letter is a reminder of where I came from and how this all started. I don't ever wanna lose the innocent stoke of the kid who wrote that letter. It also shows that when you believe in something and want it more than anything, that everything is possible. I always tell kids to follow their heart and passion. Those two things are unstoppable.
MIZU: Do you feel resentful that you lost your spot on the ASP tour for not paying your membership fees on time when you were seriously ill with pleurisy, or do you feel like it was a blessing in disguise? ALEX: I did, I was really mad for a few years. But, as is life, I let the past go and moved forward. I knew that I wasn't going to let that end my career or stoke for surfing in general. I put my head down and basically started a whole new career as a free surfer. The ASP ripping my competitive life away from me turned out to be the best blessing in disguise. I feel like I'm right where I was supposed to be with surfboard under my arm.
MIZU: Was it hard to find/keep sponsorship when you quit the tour? ALEX: No. It was actually my sponsor’s idea to take a year off. Volcom literally told me I could go do whatever I wanted! How's that for support?! So, I did what anyone would do if they had someone else’s check to travel the world: I went to every wave I had ever dreamed of surfing :) Oh, and never came back hahaha!
MIZU: Whether taking disabled and disadvantaged kids out surfing or giving inspirational speeches, you do a lot of giving back. Have you always been this way or does it come from a gratitude for the life you have? ALEX: Gratitude is a perfect word. I would never be where I am today without the help of others. I feel it is my obligation to give back to those that have given me so much. I've experienced pain and loss in life. I've also experienced the greatest things in the world. I want to help, inspire, and influence as much as possible outside of my surfing career.
MIZU: You surf a lot of really big, heavy waves. Do you feel like they always need to get bigger to get the same rush? ALEX: No, not necessarily. It's more the feeling of constantly pushing yourself. I love the mental aspect of surfing big waves. Your mind wants to say no, but we are capable of so much more than our mind’s restrictions. I like testing that aspect. For some reason most of my big wave sessions are with my friends and heroes. Those are my favorite people to surf with. So it's always an all around fun experience.
MIZU: This might sound like a dumb question, but don't you get scared? ALEX: Of course. Fear is my biggest ally. We are humans and are meant to have emotions. So many people try to cover up that they are scared. I like to acknowledge it, and use it as a source of confidence and energy.
Photo: Tom Carey
MIZU: What do you do when you are not surfing? ALEX: Bow hunting!! I really love bow hunting with my friends. I love lobster diving at home in the winter too. I am also starting a surf therapy called the Chris Gray Way for alcohol and drug addiction.
MIZU: What would you like your life to look like 5 years from now? ALEX: Hanging out in London, jamming with the stones hahaha! I hope to still be living my dream, travelling the world in search of the best waves.
MIZU: And finally, Turkeymelt… Where did that name came from?! ALEX: You tell me....... ;)