He was one of the few guys to make it out of a bomb on the Tahiti’s infamous Code Red day. He was there when everyone started paddling Jaws. He scored all-time Fiji with his friend/mentor/cover-star Dave Wassell during the Volcom comp. He’s got starring roles beside Kelly Slater in this year’s two Taylor Steele films (Here & Now and This Time Tomorrow). And just last week he blew off his US Open poster signing to score this bombing Puerto swell. Remember when Alex Gray was, like, this cute, comedy kid doing the WQS? Me neither. —Nathan Myers
SURFING: I forget when you became so gnarly. Remind me.
ALEX GRAY: I don’t think of myself as a big wave guy. I just like to surf every day, whatever the size. I pack a 9’6” and a 5’6”. And there’s always days around the swell that are small and still super fun. I just can’t stand to watch a swell go by.
Just answer the question.
I got pretty sick one year after Hawaii. Bunch of infected water in the lining of my lungs. I was hospitalized for a while, literally almost died. When I finally came back to do the tour the next year, the ASP had stripped me of all points because I hadn’t paid my dues on time. Before that, competing on the WQS was my whole life. But I went from 46th place to 1,011th overnight. My sponsors said I should take some time off. I feel like a totally different person these days.
How do you forecast swells?
I like BuoyWeather. Also Surfline, Magic Seaweed and Wind Guru. I guess the trick is checking them all then taking the average. But on BuoyWeather you can put in all your notes and start to accumulate your own well of knowledge. That’s why guys like Snips and the Longs would never share their passwords. They got some much information in their accounts it’s gnarly.
Paddle or tow?
I think everyone’s all about paddle these days. Not even a question. That’s where it’s at. You only tow if it’s the only option, and then it’s really fun.
What’s your favorite big wave spot?
For all around waves of consequence, you can’t beat Hawaii. It’s like a second home to me there. I never miss a season.
Do you get scared out there?
Totally. If you’re not scared, you’re not all there. Fear is healthy. It’s what you do with it that counts.